'A touch of Lazarus' as Penrose claims seventh seat for Labour
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
Labour's Willie Penrose and Peter Burke of Fine Gael have become the final two TDs to be elected to the 32nd Dáil following a marathon six-day count in Longford-Westmeath.
Mr Penrose became his party's seventh TD elected, giving Labour vital speaking rights in the Dáil.
In a nail-biting finish, the four-seater constituency was the last to declare as counting, recounting and scrutinising of ballot papers continued throughout the week.
It became known as the 'Siege of Keenagh' as a triumphant Robert Troy retained his seat for Fianna Fáil, followed in second place by Independent Alliance candidate Kevin 'Boxer' Moran.
And Fine Gael's Peter Burke succeeded in taking the third seat yesterday morning after election staff worked through the night.
Mr Penrose, staging a dramatic comeback, retained his seat after he overtook outgoing Fine Gael TD James Bannon and Sinn Féin's Paul Hogan who also polled strongly - and at one point looked poised to the take the fourth seat.
Fianna Fáil received the most first preferences (28pc), while Fine Gael took 23pc, Labour almost 9pc and Sinn Féin 9.5pc.
Independents and other parties fared well, getting 30pc of the first preferences.
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The 55,000 valid poll, with a 11,050 quota, saw just over 30pc of Longford votes go to Westmeath candidates.
Fianna Fáil's spokesman on children Robert Troy remained on target from the outset and passed the quota on Saturday evening on the first count. He credited Micheál Martin with the revival of his party describing his leader "as head-and-shoulders above the rest".
Mr Penrose had thrown in the towel on Saturday, telling reporters "the tide was out for the Labour party, we all know that." He had even gone as far to say he was happy to have his private life back again - but within hours was back in the running.
"There was a touch of the Lazarus about it. My winning a seat shows you the vagaries of the proportional representation system - if ever anyone wants to see it in action, then this is it. I'm delighted to have won. This is my sixth time to be elected to the Dáil," said Mr Penrose.
"It is also important in terms of the Labour Party - I am the seventh member and that is essential for the party in the next Dáil," he added, referring to the number required for speaking rights.
Mr Bannon lost out to Mr Penrose, who lives five miles from him, by just six votes. Mr Bannon, whose legal team was also present, told reporters that given the narrow margin he would take careful advice on "whether or not to purse a legal option".
He has 14 days to bring an election petition to the High Court which would set out a challenge to the returning officer's decisions.
After he was eliminated from the election at 5.30am, he told reporters he was proud to have been involved in the helping get the Center Parcs for Longford and expected it to bring a major jobs boost.