Fine Gael candidate Bannigan dies of heart attack
A COUNTY councillor, who was expected to top the poll in his area, died suddenly yesterday, meaning a repeat of the local election will have to be held in his district.
Tributes poured in for Fine Gael councillor Owen Bannigan, who died from a massive heart attack shortly after being at a polling station in Monaghan.
The 52-year-old father of five from outside Castleblayney passed away in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
Mr Bannigan was a councillor for the past 15 years and a beef and dairy farmer.
One of his children is a member of the Monaghan minor Gaelic football squad, who were due to play Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster Championship today. The match was last night postponed as a mark of respect.
Following Mr Bannigan's death, a by-election will have to be held in the Ballybay-Clones area to fill all six seats.
The local election ballot papers from the area will be separated today at the count centre, but will be destroyed rather than counted.
The current list of candidates and any new entrants will be on the ballot paper in the re-run of the area in the next three weeks.
A similar event happened in Roscommon 10 years ago when Fine Gael's Gerry Donnelly died just a week before the local elections.
On that occasion, the election was called off in the area and run a week later.
Mr Bannigan became ill at a house in Ballybay having earlier attended a polling station in the town. He was pronounced dead at Cavan General Hospital after being taken there by ambulance.
Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys said she and the entire Fine Gael party were in shock. "It is with great shock and sadness that I learned of the sudden death of my colleague and friend Cllr Owen Bannigan. The Fine Gael party is stunned and our thoughts and prayers and sympathies go out to his family," she said.
His colleague on the council for the past 15 years, Gary Carville, said Mr Bannigan was a tireless worker for the people of the area.
Mr Bannigan was chairman of Monaghan County Council between 2004 and 2005 and was chairman of Monaghan VEC in 2010.
He joined Young Fine Gael in the early 1980s and was a past chairman of the Fine Gael Mid-Monaghan District Executive for which he served as county chairman.
He was director of elections in Monaghan for three elections and was a previous campaign manager for former Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford.
Mr Bannigan was a prominent spokesman for the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee. He was also a big GAA fan and active in the association.
Co Monaghan local election returning officer Paul Clifford extended his sympathy to Mr Bannigan's family and confirmed a re-run.
"The Clones/Ballybay area ballot papers will now be destroyed and a new election for that area taken at a future date," he said.
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