Loud applause as Roche eliminated after vote challenge
LOUD cheers and applause erupted in the Wicklow count centre last night as former Fianna Fail minister Dick Roche was finally eliminated from the election count.
His defeat came amid bitter infighting within the party with his own running mate accusing Fianna Fail of "disgusting" behaviour.
Pat Fitzgerald claimed he had been abandoned by Fianna Fail after a team of lawyers and senior party officials arrived at the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones to marshal Mr Roche's challenge to his original elimination on Sunday night.
He was trailing Mr Fitzgerald by just three votes on the 13th count at the time and any alteration of the decision would have resulted in his running mate's defeat.
Following a full day of rechecks, returning officer Patricia Casey told the count centre no significant errors were found which would affect the order of elimination. The announcement was greeted with rowdy cheers from the hundreds people present who had spent the day awaiting the confirmation.
The former Minister for European Affairs was not present to witness the scenes of jubilation that greeted his demise.
But his electoral agent, David Grant, said he was extremely disappointed with the manner in which Mr Roche was treated.
"I think it was repugnant. The man has done great service for Wicklow for 27 years, it's no way to go out," he told the Irish Independent. "These people have short memories. People must remember that the wheel turns and Fianna Fail's day will come back and some of those who are cheering here today will be on the receiving end of that another day."
But emotions ran high on both sides of the Fianna Fail camp.
Just minutes before Mr Roche's exclusion, Pat Fitzgerald made an angry outburst against party headquarters, which he accused of trying to get Mr Roche back in to the count at his expense.
"I take umbrage at the number of people that are representing the minister from Fianna Fail headquarters, they are falling over each other here. Not one of them has come to me and I am the person who is being challenged," a clearly agitated Mr Fitzgerald said.
"I think it's disgusting to be quite honest about it and if that's the way Fianna Fail are going to carry on with their own people, no wonder the people voted against them."
Last night supporters from all parties readied themselves for a long evening as the count headed in to its 14th round with none of the candidates elected.
Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle, Billy Timmins and Simon Harris looked certain to take the first three seats, while the fourth of the constituency's five seats appeared likely to go to Labour's Anne Ferris. That would leave Sinn Fein's John Brady and the Independent candidate Stephen Donnelly fighting for the final seat following the exclusion of the remaining candidates.
However, Mr Roche's team warned it would not rule out requesting a complete recount of all ballots once the final result has been announced.