Thursday 20 June 2019

Lawyers keep their powder dry as Daly wins her ticket to 'rattle a few cages'

Bound for Brussels: New MEPs Clare Daly and Barry Andrews had a good third day at the Dublin count. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Bound for Brussels: New MEPs Clare Daly and Barry Andrews had a good third day at the Dublin count. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The lawyers were amongst the first to arrive, along with the Fianna Fáil backroom heavyweights. Clare Daly was in a Julian Assange T-shirt.

If he was able to stick the cramped surroundings of a broom cupboard in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years, how long would the Independents4Change candidate be willing to camp out in the RDS if things did not go her way?

We braced ourselves for all hell kicking off. At least it made a change.

Fine Gael's John Paul Phelan had already been on the radio effectively putting it up to the returning officer to resolve things. It didn't go down well - especially when he had to go back on the air to correct his remarks. "Out of his depth," fumed Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The row had erupted on Monday night.

Barry Andrews was gung ho to win Fianna Fáil's first seat in 15 years. Daly was sure she could overtake him with Lynn Boylan's votes.

Both wanted to avoid the weird 'no man's land' of fourth place, cryogenically frozen while we all wait for a Brexit outcome.

The idea that either Andrews or Daly could end up taking over Nigel Farage's MEP expenses was strangely comforting.

At 11.30am, Daly disappeared behind the barricades for a discussion with returning officer Fergus Gallagher, her barrister Hugh McDowell, joined by Louise O'Reilly from Sinn Féin, since Boylan's votes were being debated.

Was there a decision? "No," shrugged Daly afterwards, muttering something about "making it up all morning".

The Fianna Fáil team had their own meeting with the returning officer and barrister Robert Beatty SC.

They had told Barry Andrews not to bother turning up early - but they had no say when it came to his mother Colette, who watched these puzzling proceedings anxiously.

The returning officer announced Andrews had requested a "simple recount" of count 14.

A member of the unrequired count staff had a little power nap, face down, on the table. She might as well. Everyone stood around in clusters.

General secretary of Fianna Fáil Sean Dorgan and chief press officer Pat McPartland paced tensely back and forth.

And then Andrews strolled in with his wife, barrister Sinead McGrath.

"The recount was out of an abundance of caution," he explained.

Ideally you'd be going to Brussels straight away, he admitted - but he was happy to have won a seat.

The 15th count saw Daly overtake him, as predicted.

Shortly after 4pm came rumours of a final result. Obviously the lawyers had come to a decision to keep their powder dry.

Everyone took their places near the podium and waited.

The results were pretty conclusive - thanks to Boylan's transfers, Andrews had gained 5,775 votes, with a total of 68,952. Daly had gained a whopping 22,087 votes, leaving her on 87,770.

"Jesus Christ," exhaled one of the Fianna Fáil backroom men, in awe.

The place erupted. Clare Daly promised to rattle a few cages in Brussels.

It had been an "emotional rollercoaster" since the exit polls, admitted Sinead McGrath. But now her husband's back in politics after many years away.

"We're looking forward to it as a family," she said.

"It's good for us - good to experience something different in life and to just go for it."

The place cleared out and some of the count staff celebrated with a well-deserved game of frisbee.

Irish Independent

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