Sunday 19 November 2017

SF win long-awaited seat in Cowen country

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

SINN Fein was a clear winner as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael finished two apiece in Brian Cowen's constituency.

Brian Stanley -- who is a Laois county councillor -- won the first Sinn Fein seat in Laois-Offaly in almost 90 years.

Although Fine Gael's Charlie Flanagan and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy secured a comfortable victory, the party is likely to be disappointed at not taking a third seat.

Liam Quinn, a 23-year-old from Rhode, Co Offaly, got 4,482 first preferences but he left the race after the recount of the tenth count was announced. The woodwork teacher polled extremely well for a first-time out candidate with limited experience.

Another first-time candidate -- but with years of experience in politics because of his family history -- was Barry Cowen. The Taoiseach Brian Cowen's brother secured a seat for Fianna Fail on the 13th and final count.

He was joined by party colleague Sean Fleming who was elected after he was given a leg-up from his Laois running mate, former junior health minister John Moloney. Mr Moloney is the big casualty in five-seat Laois-Offaly. He lost his seat on the 11th count.

Returning officer Verona Lambe finally made an official declaration to weary supporters and candidates in the early hours of yesterday morning, 64 hours after the count started.

The biggest cheer in the hall came from Sinn Fein supporters when Mr Stanley was elected. They belted out a rendition of 'A Nation Once Again'.

Tribute

Barry Cowen paid an emotional tribute to his brother Brian during his acceptance speech. Afterwards, Brian Cowen told the Irish Independent he was "very proud" to see his brother elected. He had watched Barry during the campaign and had been impressed with how he handled himself on the doorsteps.

Labour's John Whelan, who was the last candidate to be eliminated, thanked his supporters following the count.

"Labour in Laois-Offaly is far from a spent force. We fought the good fight and with 9,000 votes to our credit we will live to fight another day," he said.

Meanwhile, John Moloney said it was now time for him to "step down from national politics".

However, he did not rule out a return to local politics and may run for a county council seat if the party needs candidates. "If there are younger candidates, I will support them," he added.

He said his opinion of Brian Cowen as "honest, sincere, genuine -- three attributes that are seldom found in a politician -- hasn't diminished one iota".

Mr Moloney will continue to work to promote awareness of mental health, but in a voluntary capacity.

Irish Independent

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