Monday 26 August 2019

As the interminable counting drags on at the RDS centre, all the talk is about a particular radio interview...

 

Tallies: Counting votes in the RDS yesterday
Tallies: Counting votes in the RDS yesterday
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It wouldn't be a count if there wasn't a row about procedure.

Queries were raised about how things were being conducted at the RDS count centre for the Dublin European Elections. Nobody could see what was happening down at the far end of the room, complained one unimpressed insider, rightly enough.

The count was suspended for an hour so that things could be sorted out.

Stacks of cubbyholes were wheeled to a different location. The bundles of votes went too.

Much better. Now we could see everything - all the better to note that nothing particularly exciting was happening. Aside from the thunder and lightning that rattled the roof.

But the real storm was the tempest erupting in Fine Gael circles after Maria Bailey's humiliating radio interview earlier in the morning with Sean O'Rourke.

It was all anyone was talking about - and yet nobody wanted to talk about it.

"No, no, no, no," said Kate O'Connell quickly, when approached about another topic entirely, thinking she was about to be asked about her party colleague and, indeed, friend.

By around 6.30pm, we were up to the 11th count as Mark Durkan, the former SDLP leader turned Fine Gael candidate, strolled through the door of the RDS.

He was still in the running? He smiled tiredly. "Still in the count, not still in the running," he corrected.

"Obviously I would have preferred to get a higher vote than I recorded," he said.

"There were a number of factors obviously, pushing the vote to other parties in this election," he said, citing the loyalty to Frances Fitzgerald which he said he "fully understood".

He wouldn't run in a general election here, he said.

An hour later, his fate was sealed when he was eliminated in the 12th count, with 17,649 votes - a long way off the quota of 72,790. Fine Gael's cross-Border political experiment was officially over.

He walked quietly away, accompanied by his daughter Dearbháil, wife Jackie and sister-in-law Angie.

Shortly before 8pm, the Green Party's Ciarán Cuffe arrived, on the cusp of victory, with just 1,535 votes to go.

In lucky count 13, he was in. "This is an auspicious day and a new beginning for the Irish Green Party," he said, beaming.

"I think we've seen a big swing over the weekend," he said, suddenly remembering Maria's debacle as he mischievously added: "We've seen many swings over the weekend." There was a roar of laughter.

"And swings can be dangerous things," he went on. His comic pause was pitch perfect. "Because particularly for smaller parties the tide can come in and it can go out again."

Irish Independent

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