Wednesday 21 March 2018

Laois: Birthday boy Sean Fleming romps home on first count as Brian Stanley and Charlie Flanagan follow suit

Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming
Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming
Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Tom Burke

Brian Jaffray

There were no shocks in the new Laois constituency where all three sitting TDs retained their seats.

With three high profile incumbents, this constituency had been described as the most boring and predictable in the General Election with the entire county along with six electoral divisions in south Kildare making up the boundary.

And with just six candidates fighting it out for the three seats, already occupied by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and two front bench spokesmen in Fianna Fail’s Sean Fleming and Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley, the battle here was always going to be about the pole topping bragging rights.

This time around they go to Fianna Fail and birthday boy Fleming who admitted that he even surprised himself with a whopping first preference vote of 13,628, exceeding the quota by 3,908.

“I am pleasantly surprised at my vote. To exceed the quota by nearly 4,000 votes is sum achievement,” said Fianna Fail’s spokesman on public expenditure who celebrated his 58th birthday surrounded by the party faithful in the Portlaoise Count Centre.

However, with a monumental swing against the government parties, it was always on the cards that Fleming would top the poll as he was the only party candidate on the ticket after county councillor Catherine Fitzgerald turned down the chance to run.

His first preference vote was some turnaround for a candidate who only managed 6,024 first preferences in 2011 and got in on the last seat in the previous five-seater Laois-Offaly constituency.

Stanley was re-elected on the third count after receiving 8,242 first preferences while Flanagan also got in on the third count, without reaching the quota after polling 8,320 first preferences.

Putting on a brave face, Minister Flanagan tied to take some positives out of the Fine Gael vote in Laois.

“I didn’t see this coming and I don’t know where we’re going to go from here but our strategy in running first time candidate Thomasina Connell worked as we got over 30% here and when you look what happened throughout the country is impressive,” he said.

First time runner Connell was a late addition to the Fine Gale ticket and received 4,233 votes.

It was a disastrous day for high profile Labour Senator John Whelan who came so close to winning a seat in 2011.

This time around he came in fifth with 2,856 votes. Nevertheless, Whelan was philosophical about his future. “It’s Dail or nothing, I’m not contesting Seanad election. Professional surfing it is then,” he quipped.

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