| 6.4°C Dublin

FF hopes to buck national trend in Martin's backyard

Fianna Fail hopes were rising last night that it could defy the collapse in party support and win a second seat in the home constituency of party leader Micheal Martin.

Mr Martin was, as expected, comfortably elected on the first count to rapturous applause by his supporters in Cork City Hall last night.

Strong votes were also enjoyed by Fine Gael's Simon Coveney and Labour's Ciaran Lynch, both of whom were expected to be elected within the next two or three counts.

Mr Martin's running mate Michael McGrath delivered a surprisingly strong first-preference vote which should have proved sufficient to insulate him from transfers, which were running strongly against Fianna Fail and in favour of Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.

A strong performance was also delivered by Fine Gael's Gerry Buttimer, who narrowly missed out on a Dail berth in 2007, but appeared poised to win the second seat for Fine Gael.

However, the surprise in Cork South Central was the dip in the vote of Deirdre Clune (FG), the daughter of former Tanaiste Peter Barry.

Initial tallies had indicated that Fine Gael would win three seats in the five-seat constituency.

However, Deirdre Clune was engaged in a desperate battle with Michael McGrath and the surprise packet of the constituency, Councillor Chris O'Leary of Sinn Fein, who polled just 400 votes less than the outgoing Fine Gael TD.

Pundits were predicting that Mr McGrath would successfully defend his seat despite the intense challenge of Councillor O'Leary.

It proved a frustrating election for Green Party Chairman Senator Dan Boyle, whose vote was more than halved on the 2007 General Election, when he narrowly lost his Dail seat having first won it in 2002.

Senator Boyle suffered the indignity of seeing his former party colleague, Councillor O'Leary, comfortably outpoll him.

Ralph Riegel

Sunday Independent