By Noel Baker
The epic West Cork local election count finally concluded today after 11am, with Sinn Féin's Paul Hayes making the breakthrough in what he said was a "conservative, traditional area".
Hayes, along with Fine Gael's Mary Hegarty and independent Declan Hurley, was elected on the 14th count and without making the quota.
Hurley and Hegarty are returning to the Council, as is Fianna Fáil's Patrick Murphy, also elected on the 14th count and pushing past the quota.
They joined Christopher O'Sullivan of FF, his party colleague Joe Carroll, Fine Gael's Noel O'Donovan and poll-topping independent Michael Collins in securing a berth in the reconfigured eight-seat electoral area.
Fianna Fáil secured three of those seats and Fine Gael two, with Patrick Murphy remarking that Fine Gael had entered the local election with six seats, albeit under the old 12-seat system.
For Paul Hayes there was personal triumph and a sense of being part of a Sinn Féin wave.
Paying tribute to Rachel McCarthy, who in Saturday topped the poll in Bandon-Kinsale, Hayes said: "We just wanted to emulate that. We were hoping we would join the national trend, but West Cork has traditionally been a conservative voting area. It is always bucking the trend."
He said his party had won 10 of the 12 Council seats it had contested in Cork. "It is a new area, we will need to get used to the new set-up," he said.
Cllr Hayes added that areas Sinn Fein would be targeting in the Council include housing and job creation.
As many as nine of the vote counting staff in Clonakilty were due in Cork City yesterday for the European Elections but could not make it due to the mammoth West Cork count.
The first result did not materialise until after 9pm on Saturday before finally concluding on the 14th count in a weekend that will prove memorable for many of the candidates and their supporters.