New faces and Fianna Fáil revival in Cork

Four counts in Cork County Hall saw huge gains for Sinn Féin, a revival for Fianna Fáil, the obliteration of the Labour Party, and a palpable appetite for new candidates.

Fianna Fáil picked up seats and will introduce five newcomers to the council chamber, including Cork County GAA Board chairman Bob Ryan.

Fine Gael lost out towards the end of the counts as independents Jim Harris, Kevin Conway, Claire Cullinane and Mary Linehan Foley picked off transfers.

The overall patterns revealed valuable insights into the trends among the electorate in Cork.

Infighting in Fianna Fáil but loyalty to the cause

Seamus McGrath, brother of Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael, stunned the count centre by grabbing 2.5 quotas on the first count.

This threw down the gauntlet to party leader Micheál Martin who had tried to impose his influence on candidate selection in the ward.

Their supporters proved far more disciplined than the internal bickering at the outset of the campaign suggested.

While candidates in the Carrigaline-Ballincollig area all got a boost from McGrath there was a loyal distribution to Mary Rose Desmond and Daithí Ó Donnabhain.

McGrath’s initial transfers put both the remaining Fianna Fáil candidates safely away from the danger zone in later counts.

Fine Gael’s luck ran out

In the last two local elections Fine Gael’s disciplined vote management allowed it to grab more seats than its percentage would have justified.

But its tactic faltered. In better days, transfers in the later stages of the count helped the party benefit from geography.

But its brand was too unfavourable this time.

In Blarney-Macroom, Damian Boylan looked a clever bet for the final seat. But the attractiveness of Independents and a local loyalty in Macroom left him beached.

The real blow for Fine Gael came in Carrigaline-Ballincollig when its six-candidate strategy fell asunder in the final counts.

A crowded field from the Douglas area left newcomer Shane O’Callaghan unable to stay in touch while Independent Jim Harris kept picking up transfers.

Harris snuck ahead of Garret Kelleher on the 12th count and the Ballincollig candidate was too far away from the action to chase down the lead even when his party colleague’s 1,369 votes were distributed.

Disciplined Sinn Féin

For a party not used to running two viable candidates in places like Co Cork, the rigid discipline of sharing votes was impressive.

In Carrigaline-Ballincollig, Donnchadh Ó Loaighaire was elected on the first count. When his surplus was distributed 60% went straight across the ward to running mate Michael Murphy.

Intra-party transfers were not called for in the other three wards. But strategic vote management saw all candidates evenly placed after the first counts with the party’s overall first preference divided fairly.

Desire for new faces

In the general election people changed party but this time voters wanted to change the people.

Within parties the first preferences favoured those who had not run before rather than established candidates. The trend was even more pronounced with transfers.

The most telling example came in East Cork when Sinn Féin’s only outgoing councillor, from the four wards sorted at County Hall, was Michelle Hennessy.

However, she was the only Sinn Féin candidate not to get elected.

Another outgoing councillor in the East Cork ward was Fine Gael’s Barbara Murray who lost to her party colleague Susan McCarthy.

In Cobh, Padraig O’Sullivan for Fianna Fáil comfortably topped the poll with broad support while Michael Ahern, the former junior enterprise minister, received 1,400 less first preferences and proved toxic to transfers.

In the same ward Labour’s Cathal Rasmussen, who was only co-opted onto the council last year, survived. Noel Costello, who was co-opted two years earlier, fell.

Likewise among the independents’ David Boyle, a sitting councillor in Douglas, lost his seat while Marcia D’Alton and Jim Harris were elected.

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