The Fine Gael election strategists in Mayo can revel in tremendous success after all four candidates secured four out of five seats — an unprecedented result in the history of Irish politics. “It was a dream campaign,” chairman of the strategy campaign, former county councillor Paddy McGuinness, told the Mayo Advertiser.
Having retired from the political field as an Independent councillor, Mr McGuinness became involved with Fine Gael after he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Enda Kenny in 2003. At the time Dep Kenny had just been elected as leader of Fine Gael and Mr McGuinness said that he felt that it was his “duty to help him on his first big test”. During the 2004 local elections Mr McGuinness ran for a seat, which led to Fine Gael gaining a seat in Castlebar. After five years in politics, where he was party whip, McGuinness bowed out. However when asked to chair the strategic committee he gladly took up the role.
Outlining the campaign, which has been intensely worked on over the past five to six months, Mr McGuinness said it was “purely arithmetic” based on the study and analysis of previous elections and tallies. However this, coupled with the “reality of a gale force wind behind Fine Gael in the county, where morale was high”, made for a “dream campaign”, and ultimately led to a dream result for Fine Gael in Mayo.
According to Mr McGuinness, two representatives from each candidate worked alongside the campaign strategists, led by director of elections Michael Sloyan. The campaign chairman said that there was intensive co-operation of candidates and their representatives and “fairness and pragmatism was used in dividing up areas, as “historically candidates guard their areas”.
Mr McGuinness said that the strategy that Enda Kenny would secure a large vote from Mayo, “as the people of the county had got behind the idea of Kenny for Taoiseach”, meant that his traditional areas were cut back significantly and other candidates were given the area around Castlebar. Also in the case of Ring, who also traditionally received a high vote, his territory around Ballinrobe was given to John O’Mahony.
“We worked very hard to ensure that transfers from Michelle Mulherin were given to John O’Mahony”, and vice versa, and in addition, Ring and Kenny’s number two preferences were distributed evenly between O’Mahony and Mulherin. “The tallies indicated that this strategy worked,” Mr McGuinness said.
On discussing the historic count day in Castlebar, Mr McGuinness just summed it up by saying above everything else “it was an emotional day”; a day which no doubt was the climax of an intense and well-structured strategic campaign chaired by Mr McGuinness.