Wednesday 7 December 2016

A grandstand finish as Jan O’Sullivan sneaks past Fine Gael’s O’Donnell

Kathryn Hayes

Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30

Jan O' Sullivan celebrates. Photo: Gareth Williams Press 22
Jan O' Sullivan celebrates. Photo: Gareth Williams Press 22

It was a grandstand finish in the Limerick City constituency - where Ministers Jan O'Sullivan and Michael Noonan were elected without reaching the quota, and Sinn Féin's first-time candidate, Maurice Quinlivan, took a seat.

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Quinlivan secured the second seat in the four-seat constituency, signalling major danger signs for Labour's Jan O'Sullivan and Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell, who were always expected to battle for the final seat.

It was significant that Quinlivan secured his seat ahead of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan - who had to wait until the final count before he was elected.

Mr Noonan, whose first preference vote dropped from 13,291 in 2011 to 7,294 this time, said the overall result for Fine Gael was a "reversal of what happened" in 2011.

"Party allegiances are reverting back to what was the norm, and the Fianna Fáil vote came back to Fianna Fáil," he said.

"This is my 14th time being re-elected at counts in Limerick - 11 general elections and three local council elections. Sometimes I got very big votes, and other times I didn't."

On top of the heap was traditional poll-topper Willie O'Dea, who secured almost 13,000 first preferences.

But the surprising manner in which his 3,464 surplus transferred made for a fascinating count.

The AAA's Cian Prendiville was eliminated in the fourth count. He had secured the majority of O'Dea's surplus, with Quinlivan also benefiting significantly, which helped him take the second seat.

This was despite reports that O'Dea's campaigners had been instructed to encourage voters to give Jan O'Sullivan their number two vote, to keep Sinn Féin out.

But Labour Minister Jan O'Sullivan was so resigned to defeat before the transfer of votes from the eliminated Social Democrat candidate, Sarah Jane Hennelly, that she quipped: "The 'fat lady' has not sung, but she is certainly tuning up."

In a dramatic twist, however, it was actually the transfer of Sarah Jane Hennelly's votes which brought O'Sullivan back into the mix.

It was ultimately the elimination of AAA candidate, Cian Prendiville, and the transfer of his votes that finally pushed her over the line.

The big casualty was Fine Gael TD and Public Accounts Committee member, Kieran O'Donnell - who, despite looking safe until the second-last count, failed to benefit from transfers.

Irish Independent

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