Wednesday 19 June 2019

Fine Gael strategists will weigh the 'Bailey factor' in many near misses in the locals

‘Reputational damage’: Maria Bailey dropped her claim on the day of the election count. Photo: Gerry Mooney
‘Reputational damage’: Maria Bailey dropped her claim on the day of the election count. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Markus Krug and John Downing

The "Maria Bailey factor" will loom large in the ongoing Fine Gael inquest into difficult local elections, with new analysis indicating how things could have been a lot better.

Key Fine Gael figures - including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar - have said the ill-starred compensation case taken by the Dún Laoghaire TD deprived them of vital council seats in tight counts and impacted on transfers.

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An analysis by the Irish Independent suggests up to 50 seats across the country were lost by 100 votes or less and in other cases candidates polled well initially but did not get later transfers.

If even half of those 50 close calls fell to Fine Gael they could have come close to their ambitious target of winning a total of 280 council seats.

Controversy surrounding Ms Bailey's case began in the final week of the campaign, just as voters were beginning to focus on the election, and she did not withdraw her case until the day of the election count.

In the immediate election aftermath Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he accepted the "optics have not been good".

He said the controversial personal-injury case was raised on the doorsteps during the campaign.

The Taoiseach, who has since commissioned an investigation into the matter, also publicly conceded the controversy took a toll.

He acknowledged the incident happened before Ms Bailey became a TD. She had not consulted the party about the case.

"But certainly a lot of candidates have said to me it came up on the doors and did us some reputational damage. It's hard to quantify that though," he said in a radio interview two days after polling.

The Irish Independent analysis shows that in Donegal two party candidates in the Milford area, Noel McBride and Emer Friel, were between 60 to 80 votes behind the final candidate elected.

In Lifford-Stranorlar, Garvan Connolly was just 31 votes behind the last candidate home, while in the Donegal area John McNulty, runner-up in the first count, failed to get elected.

In Co Louth, Linus English was runner-up on count one in Dundalk South but finished 120 votes short of the last elected.

In Mayo, outgoing Castlebar-area councillor Eugene McCormack polled well but lost to party colleague Donna Sheridan.

In the Meath/Kells area, Peter Farrelly was only 50 first-preference votes behind the last candidate eventually elected.

In Mullingar, Westmeath, Gerard Heery had 150 first-preferences more than the final person elected but failed for transfers.

In Athlone, Alan Shaw polled well and missed the last seat by just 30 votes.

In the Tuam area of Galway, Tom McHugh was 300 votes ahead on count one of the last one home but still lost on transfers.

In Athenry-Oranmore Helen Jennings lost out to the candidate elected by just nine votes.

In Gort-Kinvara, Fionn Kelly was 60 votes ahead on count one of the last one elected.

In Fingal's Swords, Helen Dunne initially had 200 votes more than the last elected - again a lack of transfers.

In the Offaly/Birr area, Hughie Egan had 220 first preferences more than the last person elected.

In Palmerstown-Fonthill, Derek Keating polled well and missed the last seat by 85 votes.

In Dún Laoghaire Council, Dundrum area, Pat Hand had more first preferences than any of the last three elected.

In Blackrock, Rebecca Molloy had 130 firsts more than the last person home, while in Dún Laoghaire itself, May Fayne initially had 230 votes more than the last one home.

In Killiney-Shankill, Frank McNamara began with 215 votes more than the last one elected.

In Co Clare, Bill Slattery, of Ennistymon, had more votes than the last two elected. In Killaloe, Ger O'Halloran was only four votes behind the last one home.

In Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary, Louise McLoughlin was 45 votes ahead on count one than the last elected.

In Greystones, Co Wicklow, Alice O'Donnell had 200 votes more on count one than the last one home.

It was a close call in Carlow, where Wayne Fennell polled well but failed by 16 votes in the last.

In Enniscorthy, Wexford, Paddy Kavanagh failed by 13 votes in the last after being second on the first count.

Irish Independent

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