IN THE lead-up there may have been moments of tension during the high-octane Fine Gael campaign trail in the Westport area but the win-win outcome on Sunday afternoon last meant those moments were quickly consigned to history.
Flanking Michael Ring, the triumvirate of Peter Flynn, Johnny O’Malley and Austin Francis O’Malley – being photographed by another Fine Gael winner in the town council, Michael McLaughlin – were all smiles shortly after 2.30 pm in the Ruby Room at the Castlebar count centre.
It wasn’t only Mayo’s blue flag beaches that were breaking records. The blue swell buoying Fine Gael was etched on the broad smiles of candidates and supporters. The fact that county council newcomer Peter Flynn had exceeded his tally expectations, and comfortably scaled the quota, after the first count, set the hue for the outcome of this area’s election.
The result was predicted by The Mayo News, although Flynn’s supremacy did come as a surprise, given the fact that he was at a numerical disadvantage due to the carve-up of the area.
Party colleague, Johnny O’Malley was biting at Flynn’s heels from the outset ( 1,685 first preferences to Flynn’s 1,694), while Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Adams’ first preference count (1613) was impressive, particularly in light of the widespread decimation of the Fianna Fáil vote. Apparently, Adams’ hard-working ethos means that she is impervious to any swing against her party.
However, with Frank Chambers’ retirement, and candidate Caroline Navin’s clear geographical disadvantage regarding the retention of the Newport area vote potential, Adams was always set to be the lone Fianna Fáil voice for the Westport Electoral Area.
The crucial question from the start of the campaign was whether Fine Gael could micro-manage their voting pattern to elect their three candidates. There is a certain irony in the fact that ultimately such an arrangement seemed almost irrelevant.
But back to the count sequence. Flynn and Johnny O’Malley reached the quota after the first count, with Adams sailing easily over the quota by the fourth count. At this point Independents Andy Wilson and Tom King had been eliminated and Sinn Féin’s Dave Keating was struggling, even though he fared well with the distribution of their votes.
Unsurprisingly, Keating’s elimination after the fourth count propelled the Labour party’s Keith Martin almost 200 votes ahead of Caroline Navin. Martin’s colourful and high-profile campaign had meant that pundits and media commentators pitched him as a possible contender for that last seat. The massive Fine Gael surge in the county – undoubtedly bolstered by the ‘Enda Kenny for Taoiseach’ factor, as well as Michael Ring’s vote-getting machine – stalled this potential. That was also compounded by Labour’s limited organisation and lack of representation in the county.
After the first count, Louisburgh farmer, Austin Francis O’Malley was trailing Margaret Adams by over 300 votes. While over the following counts he benefited marginally by his running mates’ small surpluses, it wasn’t until after the fifth count that O’Malley got the votes boost he need to reach the quota of 1,654.
His neighbour, Caroline Navin’s elimination added a massive 365 votes to his count, which ultimately gave O’Malley 1,830 votes.
Unlike the county’s other electoral areas, there were no unexpected twists or no great surprises.