Thursday 20 June 2019

Malcolm impresses in topping poll

Diarmuid Devereux reaches high after he is elected for the first time following five counts
Diarmuid Devereux reaches high after he is elected for the first time following five counts

Cathy Lee

Ten candidates based in the Gorey area have spent the last weeks and months canvassing, from knocking on doors to putting up posters in the hope of taking one of six seats available in Gorey Municipal District in the Wexford County Council elections, but it was sitting councillors Malcolm Byrne, Anthony Donohoe, Joe Sullivan and Fionntán Ó'Suilleabháin who retained seats and new candidates Diarmuid Devereux (FG) and Donal Kenny (FF) who made gains following two days of counting.

Despite the fact that the new boundary settings saw eight seats in Gorey drop to six available seats, four sitting councillors retained seats and the parties Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin retained their level of distribution in Gorey.

The new Council in Gorey will be an all-male front, as neither Elaine Clarke of Fine Gael or Cinnamon Blackmore of Solidarity/People Before Profit were elected.

The big loss was for the Labour party, as long time serving councillor Robert Ireton lost his seat, and despite running a new candidate Nicky Wafer in Kilmuckridge, neither Labour men were elected in North Wexford.

The political come back after seven years was not to be for independent candidate Jimmy Fleming, previously of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, as he lost a strong battle starting off with 878 first preference votes, losing out to sitting Sinn Féin councillor Fionntán O'Suilleabháin in the final round of counts with just 23 votes between the two men.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Malcolm Byrne had been making the most ground during the campaign, as he canvassed to retain his seat locally, but also try his chances for a seat in the European Parliament elections.

It was Malcolm Byrne who soared high in these local elections, topping the polls in 2014 with 1,688 votes, he was elected during the first count this time around with a staggering 2,634, much exceeding the 1,482 quota.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne puts his success down to hard work.

'I've always been honest with people, I love my home town and I've worked hard, I hope that people have recognised that hard work. I try my best, and that's what I intend to continue to do. It has been a great honour and I'm obviously very humbled by the response from people in North Wexford both in the local campaign and the European campaign. I want to say thanks to the people of North Wexford who put their trust in me once again and I hope to represent them as affectively as I continue to do,' said Cllr Malcolm Byrne.

The Fianna Fáil party came out strong as it got all of its Gorey candidates elected, with both sitting councillor Joe Sullivan and first time candidate, Donal Kenny from Craanford making it past the mark on the seventh and final count.

The final count saw 1,452 votes for Donal Kenny with Joe Sullivan just three votes ahead on 1,455, with both Fianna Fáil men just missing out on the quota by a small margin.

'I'm looking forward to it now on the second term, going in as a newbie five years ago to basically learn the ropes, now I'm going in with a full knowledge of the workings of the Council, so it's up and running now as there will be no bedding-in time as such. You learn as you go along, you'll always be facing new challenges,' said Cllr Joe Sullivan.

Although Malcolm Byrne said that he feels he topped the poll due to hard work, Joe Sullivan had other ideas.

'The presence of Malcolm Byrne in the field of course made a great difference, his huge profile in the European elections certainly enhanced our vote to some degree. The greater new Gorey/Kilmuckridge districts will now carry five Fianna Fáil county councillors out of ten seats, which is an incredible result and this is down to excellent work by the party. When our district was reduced we could have sat back and just ran two candidates and take two safe seats and take it easy but we haven't, we went for the third and we got it,' said Cllr Sullivan.

Donal Kenny also echoed this feeling, and the team all look forward to working together for the next five years.

'I'm very proud of myself and the people that worked and supported me, it has strengthened the party, we'll unite now and go forward together. At the very outset we said it was going to be a very clean campaign and it has been. I've always been good at taking orders, so I'll take them be a team player, I'll work well with the boys we'll go from strength to strength no doubt about it,' said Donal Kenny.

'I want to leave my mark, I always thought I had a chance but I was a bit of a dark horse. The family would be traditional Fianna Fail, especially my late father, Jack 'the boss', who was strongly involved in Fianna Fail and I'm sure it would be a proud day for him. I want to thank the people for their votes and the courtesy that they showed me on the doors, as well as Pat Nolan, my director of elections, and his wife Mag as well as brother Padraig,' he said.

'There was a phenomenal performance in particular by Donal Kenny as a first time candidate. Gorey has always had a tradition of working cross-party. All the representatives work together to better the interests of the town and district, and I certainly hope that if that would continue, we can work quite well together,' said Cllr Byrne.

The Fine Gael party got two of its candidates elected, sitting councillor Anthony Donohoe and first time candidate Diarmuid Devereux, and both impressed with high levels of first preference votes.

It was first time Fine Gael candidate Elaine Clarke who was first to be excluded and have her 266 first preference votes distributed.

On the second count, Anthony Donohoe was elected following in second place to Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne.

In 2014 Cllr Donohoe was elected on the least number of votes, his 886 votes did not meet the quota then but this time around he was just 78 votes short of meeting the quota on the first count, beginning with 1,404 first preference votes and being elected on 1,511 votes.

A calm and collected Anthony Donohoe said that he was delighted to retain his seat as well as hold on to two Fine Gael seats.

Despite the departure of John Hegarty to Wexford, Anthony Donohoe looks forward to working with Diarmuid Devereux.

'Diarmuid has a lot to bring to the table, he has a wealth of experience in his previously roles in business. I think we'll work well together, and he has the best interests of Gorey at heart, as have I,' he said.

Anthony thanked his family for their work in the campaign and those who voted, particularly his parents Larry and Eileen Donohoe .

He continued that he feels that not using social media to highlight his achievements as a councillor, may have helped him this time around.

'Five years ago I stood as a first time candidate, one principal I had was that I wouldn't do Facebook, instead work away tirelessly in the background, do my own thing and if I helped someone out or got a road done in an area, I wasn't going to broadcast it. Let the people talk, that's my Facebook. Instead of being a keyboard warrior, I don't do self praise, I do the work and I hope to continue as is,' said Anthony Donohoe.

It was not until the fifth count that Diarmuid Devereux came out on top, being the third candidate to be elected in Gorey with a total of 1,529 votes.

'I'm absolutely thrilled, and shocked at the height of the vote I got. I knew Gorey people would get behind me and they did, considering the unbelievable vote Malcolm got. At my age 65, maybe people put more trust in you. I'm not a politician everybody knows that, I'm just passionate about Gorey, there's no hidden agendas and I think people just knows that,' said Diarmuid Devereux.

He said that his win is down to the hard work of the Fine Gael team, and that he hopes to make a difference having a deeper focus on Gorey.

'We can lobby for the North Wexford community, we need meaningful jobs for young men and women in the town and we have to stop looking at projects like the Market House as if they're yes or no or black or white. If we get an opportunity to create jobs, councillors have an absolute responsibility to whatever is necessary to get that across the line. I'm going to give it my best shot,' said Diarmuid.

Last to take the final seat was sitting Sinn Féin councillor Fionntán Ó'Suilleabháin, and he battled it out to the bitter end with party predecessor Jimmy Fleming, who ran this time as an independent.

After the first count, Fionntán came out with 945 first preference votes, 67 more than Jimmy who came in on 878, but in the end there were just 23 votes between the two when Jimmy's time was up.

'I couldn't have done any more, my team and I were constantly canvassing and active on social media, particularly my niece Theresa Redmond. I've just fallen short at the final hurdle but I gave it my best shot and my team and I are united in defeat. Sinn Fein have gotten a kicking all over, but I want to wish Fionntán well. I would rather have lost out early, I tried my come back but I won't be coming back again,' said Jimmy Fleming.

'It was extremely tight. I'd like to congratulate Jimmy Fleming on a great campaign, he achieved a remarkable result and I know he put his heart and soul into it. There's nothing worse then losing by a very small margin,' said Cllr Ó'Suilleabháin.

Although happy to have retained his seat and continue as a councillor, Cllr Ó'Suilleabháin said that it was a sad day for his party overall.

'I'm very saddened, it was a bad day for us, bad across the country and in county Wexford. I want to thank the people very much for putting their trust in me, it was a very humbling experience and I wish my fellow councillors well. I know the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael dominance in Gorey won't intimidate me, I have always been a republican and always will be as it is republican ideals that guide me, nothing else. I hope to work for my community so I don't mind if I'm in a minority. It has never phased me before and it certainly won't in the future,' said Cllr Ó'Suilleabháin.

'Now I've a bit more experience behind me, I would have learned how to do things more effectively within the Council, I'd like to work with others in achieving basic services like access to mental health services and contribute to tackling the housing crisis, and change policy to improve safety in housing estates. I'd like to see Gorey thriving and developing,' said Cllr Ó'Suilleabháin.

Labour's Robert Ireton was disappointed that he could not retain his seat, but intends to continue working in his community in Courtown.

'I've achieved a lot as I put in a mammoth amount of work in to Gorey and Courtown over the last 15 years, so of course I'm disappointed, it'd be wrong if i wasn't. It's safe to say that i didnt gey to finish what I had started,' said Cllr Ireton.

Now adjusting back to life after Wexford County Council, Robert Ireton said that he intends to continue to work within his community and that he wouldn't rule himself out for the next local elections.

A big change going forward is that there will be no female councillors in the Gorey District, as Cllr Mary Farrell takes up a seat in the new Kilmuckridge District and election hopefuls Cinnamon Blackmore (SPBP) and Elaine Clarke (FG) failed to make it past the post.

Both women said that this isn't their last chance at politics.

'I'm going to continue on being an activist for People Before Profit, carrying on with the party and see where that leads to. The future is unwritten, if there is going to be any other elections in the next year or two, I might go again if nominated,' said Cinnamon Blackmore.

'It is a real shame that there are not going to be any female candidates on the Council, I did not see my gender as being a challenge and I never saw it from anyone else as being a challenge. I didn't have the media or money behind me but I did have the people behind me and that came through so I'm really proud,' she said, thanking the 497 voters who gave her their first preference.

'I would consider running again because I learnt a lot during my short campaign. I am looking to the future so I haven't been too badly bruised by my loss, I'll take some time to reflect but I should be ready to dip my toe in down the line,' said Elaine Clarke.

Elaine Clarke, who got 266 first preference votes, intends to continue her community involvement work.

'It's very disappointing that there won't be any women councillors in Gorey, as women bring a different perspective and it would have been better for balance but hopefully the men will do a good job but it will certainly look different,' she said.

Gorey Guardian