Sunday 17 December 2017

Mayo: Risky strategy pays off for four FG candidates

Brian McDonald

NEVER mind the five-point plan, in Mayo it was the four-point plan -- and it worked like a dream.

In years to come the share out of the Fine Gael vote in the sprawling western county will be seen as a masterclass of vote management.

Four candidates delivering four seats may seem like a straightforward strategy with a fair wind at your back, but the manner in which Fine Gael plotters divvied up their vote had even Fianna Fail jaws dropping.

Never before in Irish electoral history had such an outcome been achieved. But it was a risk-reward plan that could so easily have ended in tears.

While leader Enda Kenny was instrumental in drawing up the blueprint, not all of his colleagues were enamoured by the need to cede territory and played a strictly team game.

"I ceded an awful lot of ground in the north to Michelle Mulherin and in the south to John O'Mahony, but I felt it was not needed and last week I was a worried man," Michael Ring admitted.

"I was under threat on all sides. Enda Kenny number twos were going to Michelle Mulherin.

"I can tell you there were a few pressurised meetings -- it was high tension." But the outspoken Westport deputy had to acknowledge that the plan worked to perfection -- even for him.

For the first time ever he was elected on the first count with more then 13,000 votes.


"I served my apprenticeship in the party. Sean Bruton told me on the campaign trail that he would never have been Taoiseach if I hadn't won the by-election.

"Of course I'd like to be a minister but that's up to the Taoiseach," he said with an almost straight face.

He then made his way to an anteroom off the count centre at the TF Theatre Royal in Castlebar to greet a waiting Mr Kenny.

The two men broke into a hearty laugh and grabbed each other in a bear hug. Mr Ring waved a finger at his leader in apparent admonition at the risky constituency strategy.

Mr Kenny simply smiled.

After a series of media interviews, the Taoiseach-in-waiting punched the air and reached to shake the waving hands of the ecstatic crowd.

After an epic performance, Mr Kenny left the auditorium for Dublin with the cheers still ringing in his ears.

In Castlebar they celebrated into the wee hours, looking forward to the return of its king.

Irish Independent Supplement

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