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Marathon election count

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Election count, candidate, Aoife Byrne and Jimmy Gahan.

Election count, candidate, Aoife Byrne and Jimmy Gahan.

Deirdre Wadding at the count centre.

Deirdre Wadding at the count centre.

Thank God it's over: Michael D'Arcy and Paul Kehoe embrace at the count  centre in Wexford yesterday (Monday) evening at the end of the recheck of votes.

Thank God it's over: Michael D'Arcy and Paul Kehoe embrace at the count centre in Wexford yesterday (Monday) evening at the end of the recheck of votes.

Mick Wallace gets elected and get a handshake from Johnny Mythen

Mick Wallace gets elected and get a handshake from Johnny Mythen

Leonard Kelly with his daughters Eliza and Juliet at the count.

Leonard Kelly with his daughters Eliza and Juliet at the count.

Caroline Foxe at the count centre in Wexford on Saturday.

Caroline Foxe at the count centre in Wexford on Saturday.

Ann Walsh

Ann Walsh

Ger Carthy breaks for a cuppa in the count centre on Saturday.

Ger Carthy breaks for a cuppa in the count centre on Saturday.

A thumbs-up from poll topper Brendan Howlin with supporters at the count centre.

A thumbs-up from poll topper Brendan Howlin with supporters at the count centre.

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Election count, candidate, Aoife Byrne and Jimmy Gahan.

To steal from one of Mick Wallace's posters: on Saturday it was all about The Count, The Whole Count and Nothing But The Count.

The Wexford marathon did not finish up until 6 in the morning, but even then the race would have to go on.

It's cold comfort for the coalition parties, but the Fine Gael-Labour meltdown experienced at some count centres around the country on Saturday didn't reach that red-hot temperature in Wexford.

Together, the Labour Party and Fine Gael polled almost 40 per cent of the first preference votes in the Wexford Constituency - in sharp contrast to the punishment meted out to Labour in particular in other counties.

Early Saturday some visiting national media journalists at the Wexford count were jumping up and down at the possibility of both a Howlin vote implosion and an incredible performance by independent Foulksmills postmistress Caroline Foxe, based solely on a tally of the North Wexford vote.

It turned out to be no more than a simple error; jumbled rows on a spreadsheet. Locals never believed the figures in the first place, and Brendan Howlin's heart would not have skipped a beat.

Some patterns were clear from the outset: Mick Wallace's vote was considerably dowm and Mick D'Arcy was doing very well. In the end Wallace would claim the third seat with little trouble, and D'Arcy would take back the seat he lost in 2011 with just a little perspiration.

Slowly but surely the 17 candidates were whittled down to the main contenders in the marathon count at St. Joseph's Centre. Of the first-timers, Leonard Kelly (Social Democrats) more than trebled his local elections vote, eventually bowing out in the seventh count with a respectable 2,179 votes.

Mayor of Wexford Ger Carthy's potential threat never happened, his 3,134 first preferences not nearly enough to mount a realistic challenge. Similarly, Fianna Fail's Aoife Byrne, who had promised much, failed to live up to some expectations, with a first preference total of 3,164.

The Fianna Fail organisation in County Wexford have a forensic investigation of their vote management strategy to do after getting just one of their three candidates elected on almost 27 per cent of the vote.

Gorey's Malcolm Byrne's disappointing first preference vote of 6,115 put him at a disadvantage from the start, and he failed to pick up enough transfers to catch up. When Aoife Byrne was excluded, James Browne collected the lion's share of her transfers, effectively sealing the fate of their North Wexford colleague.

After nine counts and sixteen long hours, Brendan Howlin was first past the post, regaining the pole position he had conceded to Mick Wallace five years before.

Labour supporters, weary from the short but intense election campaign, hoisted their hero shoulder high in traditional fashion as the clock struck one in the morning at the count centre in Bishopswater. They left soon afterwards, with mixed emotions on a day of few triumphs nationally for a bruised and battered Labour Party.

Howlin - among only a handful of Labour deputies returned - did exceptionally well in Wexford town boxes, as local voters rewarded him for bringing a high number of structural and infrastructural projects to fruition in the past couple of years.

By the time the first seat was filled, ten of the seventeen Wexford candidates had been eliminated. As widely predicted, Mick Wallace, Sinn Fein's Johnny Mythen, Fine Gael's Michael D'Arcy and Paul Kehoe, and Fianna Fail's James Browne and Malcolm Byrne were still standing when first-time independent Ger Carthy was excluded.

Not long after 2 a.m., Wexford elected its second TD of the 32nd Dail as over 700 of Carthy's votes brought Enniscorthy's James Browne into the winners' enclosure.

Meanwhile, Mick Wallace edged ever closer to the quota, finally taking the seat on the 13th count with very muted celebrations. His vote was way down on 2011 but not enough to trouble the man from Wellingtonbridge in the end.

The real drama was to come. Through the day, each count had narrowed the gaps separating Michael D'Arcy, Paul Kehoe and Johnny Mythen, and a cliffhanger was therefore always on the cards.

Michael D'Arcy's return to the Dail was all but confirmed when Malcolm Byrne was eliminated after count 12, the North Wexford vote crossing party lines to bump up D'Arcy's total by almost 2,500 votes.

That left Fine Gael's Paul Kehoe and Sinn Fein's Johnny Mythen locked in battle. Kehoe was 188 votes ahead of Mythen, but the distribution of Mick Wallace's surplus was expected to help Mythen, and so it panned out.

A flurry of activity and consultation with the FG and SF protagonists before the declaration of the 14th count sounded the alarm that a tight contest had become even tighter and the Returning Officer John Garahy's announcement was brief: no names, no details, just confirmation of what everyone feared.

He revealed that two candidates had finished up 52 votes apart, and that Johnny Mythen had requested a full recount, to begin Monday at 10 a.m.

As the Wexford count centre spilled out into the chilly early morning air, the only active tweeters were the birds of the dawn chorus. It was almost 6 a.m. and quickly dawning on the counters, party activists and media that they would have to do it all over again just 28 hours later.

Wexford People