Longford-Westmeath: James Bannon eliminated after marathon count
Published 02/03/2016 | 20:59
OUTGOING Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath James Bannon has lost his seat by six votes following a nerve-wrecking count that dragged on through the night.
In what has been dubbed the Siege of Keenagh, Bannon and Labour's Willie Penrose were locked in a tug-of-war war for votes, and political survival. Both were neck and neck until the last round of transfers which were announced at 5.30am.
The Labour man was not only fighting to save his political career but also his party's Dail speaking rights. Bannon also had to salvage his Dail career and try to prevent Longford being without a TD of their own.
However, at 5.30am chief returning officer Imelda Brannigan gave the latest results and Bannon with 7,081 was six behind Penrose. Following his elimination a devastated Bannon told reporters that given the close margin he will have to take careful advice on “whether or not to purse a legal option”.
He also spoke of his disappointment that 33 per cent of Longford votes went to candidates from outside the county.
Bannon was first elected to Dail Eireann in May 2007 following a five year stint in the Seanad where he was Fine Gael's spokesperson on Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The farmer and auctioneer from Legan, Co. Longford was first elected to Longford Co. Council in 1985.
After he was eliminated from the election this morning (THUR), he told reporters said he was proud to have been involved in the helping get the Center Percs Development for Longford and expected that to provide a jobs boost for the region which needed support and development and has not yet felt the effects of economic recovery.
He lost out to Labour's Willie Penrose who had conceded defeat on Saturday only to see transfers put him back in the race. In the next round of counts Penrose, who was first elected to Leinster House in 1992's “Spring tide”, will be chasing Sinn Fein's Paul Hogan who 299 votes ahead of him.
Peter Burke FG still looks set to take the third seat. The constituency is the last to declare its TDs for the next Dail having had two recounts lasting just over three days.
Outgoing Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy cruised past the 11,086 quota to retain his seat in Leinster House on Saturday and on Monday night Kevin Boxer Moran, an independent by former FF member of Westmeath Co. Council, took the second seat.
Fine Gael has now lost two of their outgoing TDs in the four seater constituency.
Outgoing TD Gabrielle McFadden lost the seat which she had held for barely two years. McFadden was elected in a 2014 by-election caused by the death of her sister Nicky McFadden.
Some eighteen candidates had thrown their hats into the ring and fifty-five thousand votes were cast.