When a General Election count is only completed at 3.30am, a full 18 hours after the first boxes are opened, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a cliffhanger. Alas for neutral observers this was not the case with the result predicted within an hour of the first boxes being opened and early indications showing that Fine Gael were walking it and Calleary would not join the Fianna Fáil cull.
Once the first tallies started to get added up, it was clear that the mainstream parties had held their own and the expected challenge from the Independents, Labour and Sinn Féin did not materialise. Even with only 20 per cent of the boxes open a clear pattern was emerging which showed that Fine Gael were close on four quotas and Fianna Fáil were edging towards one quota.
The pattern continued throughout the morning and afternoon and anyone looking for some drama and an election dog fight was to be disappointed. In Mayo there would be no tension to see if transfers would affect the outcome of the election with the outcome of the five TD’s to be returned from Mayo decided long before Returning Officer Fintan Murphy had made his way to the microphone.
The final tally showed that Kenny and Ring would get elected on the first count with the margin between Dara Calleary in fifth place and the sixth placed candidate too vast to give the latter even a fighting chance of a seat. The only outcome which was of any interest was for the bragging rights between Michelle Mulherin and Calleary in Ballina and who would end up in third place.
The official announcement of the first count was delayed because of the misplacement of just three votes and there was nearly a seven hour wait from the time the tally figures were added up until the count was announced. It meant the candidates including Enda Kenny mistimed their triumphal entrance into the count centre but with the result not in doubt they did not seem to mind too much.
The first count showed the Fine Gael’s vote strategy policies had been followed to a tee with all four candidates coming in the top four places. Kenny’s total exceeded the quota by over 5,000 votes while Michael Ring was elected on the first count for the first time ever with 820 votes to spare. Both Michelle Mulherin (8,851) and John O’Mahony (8,667) substantially increased their vote on four years ago while Dara Calleary also increased his vote to come in fifth place with 8,577 votes.
Independent Michael Kilcoyne (3,996) was the next best in sixth place but was a full 4,581 votes behind Calleary and he was followed by Labour’s Jerry Cowley (3,644), the second Fianna Fáil candidate, Lisa Chambers (3,343) and Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh (2,660) and Therese Ruane (2,142). The other Independents and Green candidate John Carey brought up the rear.
Kenny and Ring’s surplus
With Kenny’s 5,112 surplus to be transferred, it remained to be seen if Fine Gael transfer policy had been adhered to or if the Castlebar vote would go to Michael Kilcoyne. The result of count two showed that Fine Gael had shown considerable discipline in this election with Michelle Mulherin receiving 1,963 votes while John O’Mahony received 1,623. Kilcoyne received just 645 votes which effectively killed off any slim chance of a comeback.
Ring’s surplus of 820 votes followed the same pattern as Kenny’s with Mulherin (296) and O’Mahony (221) sharing the majority of his vote with Jerry Cowley (82) receiving the next highest transfer.
Following count three, John Carey, Loretta Clarke, Martin Daly, Seán Forkin and Dermot McDonnell were all eliminated and their vote was distributed. Mulherin (324), Kilcoyne (232) and Cowley (257) benefitted from these transfers after which Therese Ruane being eliminated.
The reasoning by Sinn Féin to run two candidates was so they could benefit from transfers to each other and the transfer of Ruane’s 2,438 votes showed their was some merit to it. Count five saw her running mate, Conway-Walsh receive an amazing 1,428 of these votes to take her ahead of Lisa Chambers who was eliminated with 3,619. Cowley received 235 of Ruane’s transfers while the other candidates only edged a little closer to the finish line.
Calleary closes gap on Mulherin
With the time edging towards 2am, Count six saw Dara Calleary jump past John O’Mahony for the first time after he received 2,539 of Chambers’ transfers to take him to 11,602. This total now brought him 70 votes closer to Mulherin and the prospect of him giving his supporters something to gloat over by taking the third seat and dissecting the Fine Gael quartet.
With Conway-Walsh now eliminated there was much anticipation that her 4,527 transfers would elect Calleary. However, he fell tantalisingly close to reaching the quOta when the 620 votes he received left him on 12,222 - just 138 votes short. Mulherin moved onto 12,162 while O’Mahony was now on 11,340. Despite Cowley receiving 1,185 of her transfers it was not enough to take him ahead of Kilcoyne and he was eliminated with 5,899 votes.
Fine Gael 1,2,3
With Kilcoyne 5,203 votes behind O’Mahony in fifth place, and only question surrounding Cowley’s transfers was who would end up getting third place - Calleary or Mulherin. At this stage Calleary was just 60 points ahead but Mulherin was still the favourite to take third place because a large chuck of those transferS would have came from Kenny’s vote.
At 3.30am, the eightH and final count confirmed this with Mulherin receiving 1,141 votes compared to 775 for Calleary and catapultING her into third place with a final total of 13,303 and give Fine Gael A 1,2,3 finish for the second election in a row. Calleary was just three votes short of 13,000 finishing on 12,997 and elected in fourth place. O’Mahony finished on 12,101 and was elected without reaching the quota.