WHIPPED. That's the word to describe the kind of electoral hammering that Fianna Fail took in the 2011 general election. For the first time in the State's history, the Soldiers of Destiny failed to win a seat in Louth, with outgoing Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk being automatically returned.
The announcement by long-standing senior government minister Dermot Ahern at the end of 2010 not to seek reelection due to ' health reasons' left the field wide open as to who was going to try to hold onto the massive votes that saw both Ahern and Kirk top the poll just a few short years before.
The party made the decision to run two candidates - a strategy that came back to haunt them. Long-standing councillor Declan Breathnach and relative newbie Senator James Carroll grasped the nettle and put themselves forward as candidates. This was after long-time Fianna Fail activist and businessman, Sean Gallagher, opted not to put himself into the race but to focus shortly afterwards on a far bigger prize - Aras an Uachtarain.
At one stage during the marathon count at DKIT, Senator Carroll came close enough to Peter Fitzpatrick for whispers to start about a recount. In the end, it was teacher Mary Moran's transfers that put Fitzpatrick over the line and the 27-year-old newcomer to politics lost out by 900 votes to the Louth GAA team manager.
In his own analysis, Carroll was candid about where it went wrong for a party that a few months earlier had two senior FF men in the constituency. He said his pre-decessors' votes ' went everywhere' with Mary Moran and Fitzpatrick perhaps benefiting the most.
He admitted to tensions between himself and his running mate and said it was 'surprising' that Ahern wasn't at the count centre at all. For his part, Breathnach said was disappointed for the party more than for himself and said he would continue to serve the people of Louth in his capacity as a county councillor.
Meanwhile, former Fianna Fail councillor Thomas Clare, topped the poll when it came to independents' votes and was eliminated on the eighth count with a total of 3,024. Describing it as 'a volatile campaign', he was very proud of what had been achieved.
Again, the numbers said it all. Fianna Fail saw their share of the vote in Louth fall from 44 per cent in the 2002 general election to 42 per cent in 2007, hitting 24 per cent in the 2009 local elections and collapsing to 15.7 per cent in the 2011 general election. Breathnach secured 7.5 per cent of the vote this time around while Carroll achieved 8.2 per cent.