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Cork South-Central: Rare FF success story as McGrath wins seat

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin managed to defy the collapse in his party's vote to ensure his running mate, Michael McGrath, was re-elected in one of the few success stories for his embattled party.

Fianna Fail managed to defend its two Dail seats from the 2007 General Election despite widespread predictions that Mr McGrath would lose his berth.

The triumph was also one of the few experienced within the party strategy of running two candidates in a constituency -- a similar strategy resulted in no FF TDs being returned in two other Cork constituencies.

Mr Martin took the first seat in Cork South Central, being elected on the first count with a personal vote that was only down around 500 ballots on four years ago.

Mr McGrath won the fifth and final seat thanks to his strong first-preference vote, managing to keep him just out of sight of his Fine Gael and Sinn Fein challengers.

The election of two FF TDs in the same constituency was described by party analysts as a remarkable achievement given the carnage experienced by FF nationwide.

"It is close to being a miracle given the way the FF vote had collapsed -- how on earth FG or Labour didn't manage to make a gain here, particularly with the meltdown of the Greens, no one knows," one FF strategist admitted.

Labour's Ciaran Lynch and Fine Gael's Simon Coveney both comfortably held their Dail berths.

The major surprises were Mr Coveney's running mate, Deirdre Clune, losing her seat and the strength of the Sinn Fein challenge mounted by former Green Party official Chris O'Leary.

Ms Clune lost out to her party colleague, senator Jerry Buttimer (FG), who ran an exceptionally energetic campaign and benefitted from strong transfers. Mr Buttimer narrowly failed to win a Dail seat in the 2007 General Election. Ms Clune lost her seat at the 2002 General Election only to win back her seat four years ago.

Mr McGrath took the fifth and final seat by an emphatic margin of almost 1,900 votes ahead of Mr O'Leary on the 12th county. He had polled 7,221 votes over 2,700 ballots down on his first preference total in 2007.

The 34-year-old credited a strong personal vote and the support of Mr Martin as having helped him defy the trend.

In 1997 and 2002, FF had managed to win three of the five seats on offer.

Irish Independent Supplement