Lise Hand: A tale of two CityWests
The calm and the story collide in two count centres
IT was a tale of two CityWests today.
In the room assigned to the Dublin West by-election count centre, an air of relative calm reigned. Votes were sifted and checked quietly, and supporters and workers and candidates kept a tense but a beady eye on proceedings.
Meanwhile over in the main complex the huge hall was thronged and hopping noisily off the ground with wound-up local candidates hanging over the rails watching the tallies for the myriad wards in Fingal, Dublin South and Dun Laoghaire.
There were battles of interest everywhere in the main room. There was a particularly large crowd gathered around the ward of Blackrock to see which of the Fianna Fáil women, the official candidate Kate Feeney or the unofficial Mary Hanafin would win the tussle.
Kate's mother, former Fianna Fáil senator Geraldine Feeney was poring over tally-sheets. It was neck-and-neck between the two of them, with Fine Gael's Marie Baker in a comfortable lead.
Many of the tally-people were busily trying to get a sense of early shapes in the Dublin Euro election which won't be revealed until tomorrow - as the papers were unfolded, the votes for Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan piled up, and it looked as if the Greens Eamon Ryan was in with a shout of doing a Lazarus, as he was garnering votes from every quarter, from Swords to Rathfarnham.
But on every trestle table, almost every box poured forth an avalanche of Sinn Fein ticks and number 1 votes. And successive ballot-papers showed black spaces where the Labour vote was once upon a time two and a half years ago. It was a stark difference from the previous Dublin West by-election when Labour's Patrick Nulty topped the poll.
Senior government ministers were scarce on the ground, although Labour's Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte did the Stations of the Cross, reciting the Sorrowful Mystery. No, no, no, protested Joan. There would be no heave against the party leader. Or at least not until the full extent of the massacre is revealed.
Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald flew the flag for Fine Gael, with the Sports Minister doing his best to console the party's by-election candidate Eamon Coghlan who trailed over the line out of the medals. "I always expected it would be an uphill battle," he said a little forlornly.
As the counts began to flow, cheers sporadically erupted around the hall. But not a word from Dun Laoghaire - in truth one could have taken the ferry to Holyhead, bought duty-free and sailed home again in the time it took to compete the first count.
Mary Hanafin, dressed in power-red, hovered with her supporters awaiting the announcement she had been elected on the first count. Of her rival Kate Feeney who wouldn't be elected until the second count, there was no sign. "Kate will be in when the first count has been completed," said one of her team pointedly.
Micheal Martin may have insisted it was all water under the bridge. But the waters still seem a little troubled around Blackrock.
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