As coalition talks between Fine Gael and Labour continue, the political landscape in Mayo has taken on a new look and the electorate are hoping that Fine Gael, given the vote of confidence that has been bestowed on them, will not disappoint.
In Mayo, winning four out of five seats will make the history books, not only for what was superb vote management, but also for being the first party ever to win four seats in a fiver seater constituency.
Enda Kenny’s enormous trawl of first preferences, which almost amounted to a quota and a half, showed the desire for change in Mayo. The electorate could not give up the opportunity of having a Mayo taoiseach and Kenny has all but claimed the top prize.
But Castlebar town has suffered as a result of Kenny’s huge popularity, returning only one TD to the Dáil for the first time since 1973. His 17,000 first preferences meant there was only crumbs left for the other Castlebar hopefuls in the hotly tipped Independent candidate Michael Kilcoyne, new girl on the block Lisa Chambers, and sitting town councillor Therese Ruane.
While Kilcoyne was next in line for a seat, he was never close enough after the first count to make a real threat and it was to be Fine Gael’s and Ballina’s day this time around.
While there is bitter rivalry between the Calleary and Mulherin supporters in the north Mayo town, Ballina people must surely be thrilled to have two sitting TDs serving the north of the county, even if one is in opposition.
Former TD Jerry Cowley looked a dejected man at the count centre last Saturday night. He ran a positive and energetic campaign highlighting the inroads he had made in ensuring that the government’s royalty regime extends to the Corrib gas field, and even got that included in Labour’s election manifesto. But there were too many strong candidates in the same area with Ring, Mulherin, and Calleary coming out on top.
Sinn Féin, on the other hand, say they were happy to have increased their vote from five per cent last time out to 6.4 per cent this time, but running two candidates was questionable. In 2007 Gerry Murray polled 3,608 first preferences and the two candidates this time accumulated 4,802. Murray, coming from a Fianna Fáil background, could have picked up defective Fianna Fáil votes, but the party did not afford him that opportunity. Also his positioning in the east of the county, away from the Ballina and Castlebar hotspots, meant he would have been in with a real chance. The positives for Sinn Féin is that they have increased their profile across the county and will be stronger come the next election.
But as long as Michael Ring remains in politics, Rose Conway-Walsh will have her work cut out in the Belmullet area, and the same goes for Therese Ruane in Castlebar while Enda Kenny remains on the scene. That said, both TDs could call it a day during the life time of this government or at the end of their term leaving the gates open for Sinn Féin to take it one step further next time.
As for the Green Party, their candidate in 2007, Peter Enright, who polled 580 first preferences, did remarkably better than John Carey with his 266 votes. That said, Independent candidate in Castlebar Dermot McDonnell was running on a green issue and he took 216 votes. However, combined they still did not reach Enright’s 580 and the party has some serious soul searching to do if they are to run a credible candidate next time out. But elections aside, sometimes the issues are more important than the outcomes and McDonnell certainly had some valid points to raise about Mayo’s suitability for the development of wind energy.
Phew. It’s done and dusted for another few years. Let’s all get behind Enda and co now that we have given them a mandate.
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