Sunday 15 September 2019

Longford-Westmeath: Siege of Keenagh finally ends as Willie Penrose and Fine Gael's Peter Burke elected to Dail after marathon count

Labour's Willie Penrose
Labour's Willie Penrose
Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden
FF deputy Robert Troy
Fine Gael's Gabrielle McFadden

Tom Tuite

After more five days the Siege of Keenagh has ended with the election of Labour's Willie Penrose and Fine Gael's Peter Burke to the 32nd Dail.

Following a marathon count overnight, the two men were declared elected to represent the Longford-Westmeath constituency in Leinster House, along with Independent Kevin "Boxer Moran" and Fianna Fail's Robert Troy.

The Labour man was not only fighting to save his political career but also his party's Dail speaking rights. On Saturday, Penrose who, was first elected as part of the "Spring tide" in 1992,  had emotionally conceded defeat in the four seater constituency only to see a reversal of his fortunes.  By early morning on Thursday he  overtook outgoing Fine Gael TD James Bannon. At 8.17am on Thursday morning, he then passed out Sinn Fein hopeful Paul Hogan.

Fine Gael's success centred on Peter Burke an experienced county councillor from Mullingar. Despite being just 33 he is the veteran of three unsuccessful Dail election campaigns. He also had a struggle with his own party to be let run for the Dail. The determine accountant had held the third spot throughout the five-day count, the last in the country to be completed.

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.The election had seen Co. Longford without a resident TD. 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.

Earlier James Bannon had spoken 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.

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