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Independents force FF meltdown

Independents force FF meltdown in the county town

Edwin McGrealEdwin McGreal

SOME times early tally figures can be deceiving but there was no doubt from the tally of the first four of 17 boxes in Castlebar that Michael Kilcoyne and Frank Durcan were going to romp home.
The four boxes showed a wave of support for the two independents – Kilcoyne on course for 1,000 votes and Durcan looking set to exceed the quota too.
And the first count revealed the inevitable – Fianna Fail’s vote went through the floor, down from 39.38% in 2004 to as low as 18.26%. It meant they could only claim one seat of nine – that of Blackie Gavin – and there were even whispers at one stage that they might end up with no seats.
Such speculation was not borne out by the reality of the figures but that the possibility of Fianna Fáil getting no seats was even being suggested tells you of the near complete nature of their meltdown.
It is to Kilcoyne and Durcan’s performance though that the headlines ought to go, Kilcoyne especially.
His first preference tally of 965 was utterly phenomenal and it means that close to one in every fifth person who voted for Castlebar Town Council gave Kilcoyne their endorsement. The quota was only 486.
He had topped the poll in 2004 with a not insignificant vote of 614 but he managed to increase that by 57% despite having Durcan to contend with in the independent ranks.
He got votes in huge numbers - one box at Scoil Raifteirí saw him claim 132 of 222 on offer. There are a number of other ways of highlighting the sheer scale of Kilcoyne’s votes. The most stark is this – he got 80 votes more than the four Fianna Fáil candidates combined. Had Kilcoyne been able to clone himself he could have taken three seats!
And there was plenty of room too for Frank Durcan to make a storming comeback. The veteran politician had stepped aside in 2004 but returned to run for the county and town council elections, getting elected to both.
There is no doubt that the council will certainly be an interesting one with the firebrand Durcan back on board.
The loss of Fine Gael’s Kevin Guthrie – who is the current Mayor – was the biggest shock of this council election. He will be incredibly disappointed that he lost his seat considering Fine Gael upped their representation from three to four.
All of which meant two new FG councillors. Ger Deere, well known as Enda Kenny’s right hand man, was expected to do well and he was the fifth elected but the election of first-time candidate Noreen Heston caught most people off-guard.
Heston, originally from Ballycroy, had been boosted by the help of Paddy McGuinness and Michael Ring on the doorsteps but her first preference vote of 363 would suggest a person well able to source her own votes too.
It represented a big jump for FG from 23% five years ago to 37.5% now. Had there not been such a dramatic vote for independent duo Kilcoyne and Frank Durcan, FG could easily have taken five seats, like their colleagues in Westport Town Council.
It was a fulfilling day too for Harry Barrett. He will empathise with Aidan Crowley and Kevin Guthrie having only lost the final seat five years ago through a recount. This time he made it in although not without some sweating.
There had always been a chance that Fianna Fáil might only end up with one councillor if they had a bad day. Their worst nightmare became a reality with outgoing councillor Aidan Crowley and 23-year-old Stephen Lavelle looking doomed from the early tally figures.
Pat King – who was so unfortunate to lose his seat in 2004 – looked like he might rescue his party but, like five years ago, he was to be bitterly disappointed.
He was tenth after the first count – the nine elected were in the first nine spots after the first count – and while he did overtake Eugene McCormack after sixth count, McCormack was always going to make that back when Guthrie was eliminated.
It left Sinn Féin’s Thérése Ruane and King battling out for the last seat and while only 13 votes separated them in the end, it was little comfort. King’s disconsolate expression summed up the devastation for his party in Castlebar – their world looked like it had fallen in on them in front of their own eyes.