Waterford: Fine Gael's John Deasy pips Paudie Coffey for final seat
Waterford has long been considered something of a bellwether constituency and in this election it followed national trends to the letter.
From first tallies it was clear Labour’s vote had dissolved. Ciara Conway who secured well over 5,000 first preferences in the 2011 General election managed less than half that this time out.
While Fine Gael’s John Deasy and Paudie Coffey also looked in trouble from early on.
In sharp contrast Fianna Fail Cllr Mary Butler was picking up number ones in both urban and rural constituencies. She soared past the quota on the first count and told Independent.ie “I was confident when I saw the Exit Polls last night but to get over ten thousands votes (10,603) is incredible. This is a great day for Fianna Fail and I’m very proud that the people of Waterford have put their faith in me.”
Sinn Fein Senator David Cullinane was also celebrating. In three consecutive General elections he fell short but in 2016 he secured 9,739 number ones and was elected on the sixth count. Even Martin McGuinness popped in to congratulate him while on a national whistle-stop tour.
With Butler and Cullinane safely checked on board the Leinster House Express all the focus turned to the remaining two seats.
And so in the 8th count with the transfers of Ciara Conway and Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party distributed John Halligan was returned to the Dail and passed the quota.
The drama continued after midnight. In 2011 Deasy and Coffey battled to top the poll, this time they were scrapping for the fourth and final seat. And John Deasy had enough in stock to pip his party colleague Paudie Coffey by 567 votes in the final count.
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Joyous Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Independents supporters danced off into the Waterford night while those in the colours of Fine Gael and Labour were left licking their wounds.
“We adopted a broad slogan which didn’t really resonate with people. Maybe we should have been more compassionate with people for the pain that they felt. Politics is about people and we somehow lost sight of that and I can’t believe that we did that. There was an unhealthy strut about Fine Gael over the last year, some lost the plot a small bit,” said Deasy.
Mary Butler secured 10,603 of the first preference vote passing the quota of 10,341.
She was closely followed by Sinn Fein Senator David Cullinane who looks likely to take the second seat. At the fourth time of asking Cullinane looks set to be become a TD in Waterford, Sinn Fein’s first since 1927, having secured 9,739 of first preferences.
An intriguing tussle lies ahead with three outgoing TDs battling it out for the last two seats.
While the Independent Alliance candidate John Halligan looks likely to secure a seat at some stage this evening Fine Gael’s John Deasy and Paudie Coffey are neck and neck after the first count.
While Halligan secured 8,306 first preferences, Deasy got 7,641 and Coffey 7,209.
Outgoing Labour TD Ciara Conway saw her vote plummet to 2,268 and will lose her seat.