Saturday 14 December 2019

Wicklow: Labour set to lose all its seats

Stephen Dunne

Labour looks set to lose all of its six county council seats in Wicklow after a disastrous day at the polls.

Recording just 3% of first preferences across the county, its five candidates suffered a severe backlash from voters in Wicklow.

Even after a spate of Labour resignations and retirements in the county since the last local election which left it with a raft of new faces this time around, the showing is a major set-back for the party in Wicklow where it has traditionally held a number of seats.

Ian McGahon, who polled just 188 first preferences in Greystones, said Labour was now “struggling” in Wicklow.

“They [Sinn Fein] say Labour broke promises, but can Sinn Fein seriously deliver on its promises of abolishing the household and waters charges?

“It’s a protest vote and I just wonder in terms of Wicklow County Council whether that protest vote will be effective.”

On Saturday evening, Anne Ferris, Labour’s sole TD in the county, said the party was “stunned” by its poor showing in the local election polls.

Elsewhere, Independent candidates secured their best-ever showing in the county, with Jennifer Whitmore catching the eye in Greystones.

Whitmore ran as Stephen Donnelly’s candidate in the Greystones ward and was elected on the first count on Saturday night with 2,328 votes, almost double the quota.

Donnelly said he was “absolutely thrilled” over Whitmore’s performance.

“The vote says that people want a new style of politics and that they have a great appreciation for high calibre independent candidates,” Donnelly said.

He also dismissed suggestions that a vote for Independents and Sinn Fein was a protest vote.

“If it was a protest vote, Fianna Fail would have received a big bump too, and we haven’t really seen that.”

Also in Wicklow, Nicky Kelly, the well-known personality who was jailed, released and subsequently pardoned after a national “Free Nicky Kelly” campaign in the 1980s, confirmed he will bow out of local politics after he was eliminated on the fourth count in Arklow.

Kelly, who was running as an independent, was jailed after he was accused of an involvement in the Sallins train robbery in 1976. He claimed to have been subjected to mental and physical torture while in custody. The saga was the subject of a song by Christy Moore, “The Wicklow Boy”.

“I wasn’t able to canvass due to health reasons,” said Kelly, who was first elected in 1999.

He added: “I was involved nationally 20 years before politics, so for me local politics was a step down. That said, I enjoyed the effort. I wasn’t there egotistically. I was the opposite to everyone else but local politicians don’t get credit for the function they serve.

“Overall I suppose, I hope I did more good than harm, like old cliché goes.”

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