Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's dominant spell in Cork East at an end

Only a generation ago, Fine Gael were able to take three of the four seats in the Cork East constituency. Now they're barely able to hold onto one.

After that dominant spell was broken, Fianna Fáil was pretty much guaranteed two seats — one of the northern end of the constituency and the other down south. Now they have just one.

Sean Serlock. Picture: David Keane
Sean Serlock. Picture: David Keane

There was nearly always a Sherlock in the mix, between the current TD, Sean, and his late father, Joe. Sean has retained his seat, only slightly down on his first preferences. No mean feat when Labour received a pummeling all across the country in recent years.

With a whopping vote like that he topped the poll and was elected on the first count. It caused many political pundits to wonder why they hadn't run a second candidate in the northern end of the constituency. If there is another election any time soon they almost certainly will.

In 2016 Mitchelstown-based Kevin O'Keeffe topped the poll, but he failed to get elected this time. It came as a huge blow to his shell-shocked supporters who readily admitted they didn't see that coming.

Election 2020 Results Summary

Seats by party

  • Party
  • % 1st Pref
  • Seats
  • FF 22.18% 38
  • SF 24.53% 37
  • FG 20.86% 35
  • IO 15.39% 21
  • GP 7.13% 12
  • LAB 4.38% 6
  • SD 2.90% 6
  • SPBP 2.63% 5
160 of 160 seats filled
39 of 39 constituencies complete

Fine Gael has a problem. Junior minister, David Stanton, barely held onto his seat. Somewhat ironically he taught Buckley when he was a pupil at St Colman's College, Midleton. Maths was one of the subjects taught — his student has now become the teacher when it comes to acquiring larger numbers.

Stanton maintained that if they'd gone to the country last October or November the result may have been more positive for his party.

The heady days of Fine Gael getting three seats are well gone and in order to get two they'll need to deploy a real heavyweight candidate in the northern end of the constituency. At present, nothing is on the horizon.

David Stanton. Picture: David Keane
David Stanton. Picture: David Keane

The O'Keeffe dynasty is in trouble. Kevin's father, Ned, held a seat for Fianna Fáil from 1982 to 2011. Kevin was a county councillor for a number of years before taking over the family mantle in Leinster House. He slipped up this time.

Incredibly, the FF seat was instead taken by 22-year-old Trinity College, Dublin student James O'Connor, who has barely been a wet week in politics, having only won a seat on the county council at the last Local Elections.

“I'm a bit taken aback. It's a setback, but we will rebuild and put the O'Keeffe name forward again. There are two seats here for Fianna Fáil and there will be another election sooner than you think. FF HQ took their eye off rural Ireland in favour of getting seats in Dublin,” he said.

A jubilant O'Connor is not going to juggle his new Dáil career with his Business, Economics and Social Studies at Trinity. Student life is parked. “It's a dream come true for me. I developed an interest in politics when I was in primary school,” he said.

James O'Connor. Picture: David Keane
James O'Connor. Picture: David Keane

The pressures will be immense for such a young man. He said he likes to relax by playing the piano and violin, or watching rugby, national hunt racing and point to points.

Sherlock admitted that at several stages during the counts he thought he was a gonner: “I told my wife that I'd have to dust off my CV."

A TD since 2007, he admitted it was one of the toughest battles he has ever fought. He's managed to live to fight another day.

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