A LITTLE after six on Sunday evening and Blackie Gavin arrives outside the count centre in the Ruby Room in the TF Hotel. He had claimed a seat on Castlebar Town Council the night before but he was resigned to missing out on the county council.
“I gave it my best shot,” he sighed.
Fast forward six hours and at 12.10am and the glint is back in Gavin’s eye. “I’m not gone yet,” he says like a child who had seen all his Christmases come together.
His own people were resigned to defeat long before a tally appeared for the key distribution of Mickey Feeney’s votes. They had even begun expressing their anger at the lack of inter-party transfers.
Across the room Sinn FéÄ±n’s Thérése Ruane had been told all day that her name was on the last seat only to have it snatched away. It was as dramatic a conclusion as you could imagine. Politics as a blood sport captured succinctly.
The announcement, when it came close to an hour after the tallies showed Gavin benefiting so handsomely from Feeney’s vote, saw jubilant Gavin supporters like Pat Conway, Conor Smyth, Danny McNulty and former councillor Frank Chambers nearly lift the building.
Gavin himself credits a lucky number in helping him take the 31st and last seat on the council.
”When I handed in my forms for Mayo County Council I was number 31 and I have taken seat number 31 on Mayo County Council. It’s my lucky number and the Black is back.”
He credits Mickey Feeney too with a strong transfer before adding that Fianna Fáil in Mayo need to sort themselves out.
”I’m grateful to Mickey Feeney because his transfer got me elected to Mayo County Council.
“I intend to work hard to rebuild our party here in Castlebar and in County Mayo for the next couple of years. There’s a job to be done. People in the organisation have to go back around the table and rebuild the party, not just in Castlebar but around the county.”
Across the room Thérése Ruane was the epitome of dignity, applauding Gavin’s election before confirming she expects to be back, stronger than ever, in five years time.
FIVE years in the other direction and Michael Kilcoyne wouldn’t have been putting Iarla Duffy on his Christmas card list. The distribution of Duffy’s votes - he was a Fianna Fáil candidate in 2004 - saw the unexpected parachuting of Johnny Mee over Kilcoyne for the last seat.
Up to that point Kilcoyne looked like he was going to take Mee’s seat but, this time, Iarla Duffy was the bearer of altogether better news.
At 10am on last Saturday morning Duffy, working as a tallyman for Fianna Fáil, rang Kilcoyne to tell him that the was ‘flying it’. There would be no need for a long night of waiting, Kilcoyne was going to romp home on the first count.
And you could not take the smile off his face all day long. A first preference tally of 2,323 was incredible and 466 votes over the quota. No, there was going to be no doubt about this one.
While he only actively canvassed the town and its environs, his appeal saw him pull in huge swathes of votes from all over the large Castlebar area. He even got a phonecall from a man in Kiltimagh on polling day wondering why he couldn’t vote for Kilcoyne!
“Last time I was short for the county council by 56 votes, when it looked as if I was in and then I continued to work for the five years, representing those people who came to me.
“I wasn’t expecting to do that well, no. In the county council I’ve doubled my vote on the last time. I’m really pleased about that. There are boxes in areas that I didn’t even canvass that my vote has doubled. That tells me that I’m clearly doing things the right way.”
Kilcoyne didn’t put up a single poster - it’s something he’s strongly against - but he clearly got his message across.
‘I have got votes in every rural area from Rathbane to Treanlaur, Partry to Islandeady, right across the board. I wasn’t able to do a great personal canvass myself but I had the best team of workers that anyone could have.”