Despite an absolute wipeout of the Fianna Fáil party on a national level, and Mayo only returning one Fianna Fáil TD to the 31st Dáil, there still exists a core Fianna Fáil vote in Mayo.
That was evident in last week’s General Election where the two Fianna Fáil candidates secured a total of 12,920 first preference votes or 16.02 per cent of the vote. Obviously it was a blue day in Mayo with Fine Gael securing an unprecedented 64.99 per cent of the vote with Enda Kenny himself almost amassing a quota and a half.
Following the first count sitting Minister Dara Calleary had a total of 8,577 first preferences and eventually took the fourth seat in this five seater constituency. Calleary’s obvious rise through the ranks of the party during his first term in the Dáil saw him increase his first preferences by 1,352 votes on the 2007 election.
His Fianna Fáil running mate Lisa Chambers was in eighth spot after the first count with her 3,343 first preferences and in fact polled higher than outgoing TD Conor Lenihan and almost the same as Barry Andrews. Chambers was placed just behind the big Mayo guns who were tipped to be in contention for the five seats.
However once the tallies had been totted it was evident from early on at the Castlebar count centre who the five seats would go to, and that left Dr Jerry Cowley and Michael Kilcoyne out in the cold.
But Chambers said afterwards that she was delighted with her performance, especially given that she only declared her candidacy three weeks before the election and still pulled more first preferences than sitting councillors Rose Conway-Walsh and Therese Ruane. Looking to the future Chambers will build on the positive reaction she got at the doors with “people agreeing that there is a need for more young people in politics”, and she certainly does intend to run again in possibly the next local and subsequently the following general election.
It was obvious too that the Fianna Fáil vote transferred with Calleary picking up 2,539 of Chambers’ votes after her elimination in the fifth count.
The Castlebar voters also kept their vote local with Michael Kilcoyne benefiting from 334 of Chambers’ votes after her elimination, but the Kenny factor in the county town would ultimately prove too strong for either Chambers or Michael Kilcoyne.
Despite a spirited campaign by Sinn Fein councillor Therese Ruane, who would have been hoping to pick up disaffected Fianna Fáil votes, Chambers beat her on their home patch with Chambers taking 967 first preferences in the Castlebar electoral area and Ruane only 649.
However Ruane’s running mate Councillor Rose Conway-Walsh was more successful in the Belmullet area where she secured 1,538 votes against Calleary’s 1,172. But unfortunately for Conway-Walsh, Deputy Michael Ring’s and Fine Gael’s popularity proved too strong with Ring vacuuming up 3,208 votes in this area.
Conor Smyth, secretary of the Castlebar town Cumann, having considered the results and what happened to the party nationally said they were very happy with the two Fianna Fáil candidates. “Ballina are obviously very happy with Dara Calleary and his promotion during his term. He is an energetic young TD who is backed by Mícheál Martin and Ballina responded to that,” Smyth told the Mayo Advertiser.
“Fianna Fail are trying to change things. She [Chambers] owed no favours to anyone and came with new ideas. She doesn’t agree with the old style. It was easy to canvass for her.”
However Smyth admitted it was not an easy campaign having to come face to face with their neighbours and friends and meet their anger. “They saw you as the flag bearer and I felt a bit like a tea bag at the end, I had that many holes in me.”
Smyth congratulated Enda Kenny and the local Fine Gael organisation and wished them well in their future endeavours.