Fianna Fáil is on course to retain its position as the largest party on Cork City Council with Fine Gael a close second after the “green wave” swept Sinn Féin aside over the weekend.
Fianna Fáil had secured six of the 16 seats which had been filled by 9pm. Fine Gael is on four, the Greens had three and were on course for a fourth, the Independents had two, with Sinn Féin, which had eight seats going in to the election, left with just one seat.
Some of the high-profile casualties, including Sinn Féin’s Chris O’Leary, a former lord mayor who spent 17 years on the council, blamed a combination of poor turnout in key areas, and the management of local electoral area (LEA) boundary changes linked to the city boundary extension as factors in their losses.
Green Party activist Lorna Bogue won the party’s first seat on Cork City Council since 2004 on the second count in the south-east LEA, with 2,265 votes, or 14% of the vote.
Party veteran, former councillor, TD, and senator Dan Boyle rode the green wave to take the party’s second seat on the fifth count in the south-central ward later, with 1,524 votes.
With their colleague Colette Finn taking the third seat in the south-west LEA, and Oliver Moran also poised to win a seat on the northside, Mr Boyle said they hope to revisit issues that have caused controversy over the life of the last council, including the flood defence plans for the city.
“We want to have a better approach towards the whole idea of how we approach keeping the heritage of the city quay walls and to show that we are not beholden to State agencies like the OPW — that we can come up with separate and different approaches and revisit issues that have caused controversy,” he said.
“We won’t do so in a confrontational way. We will do it in a consensual way and we will try to make it at city council that works together.”
Mr Boyle said they will push for the continuation of the d’Hondt system, which sees the mayoral chain rotate, rather than a return to the pact system.
Sinn Féin’s vote collapsed, with high-profile casualties including Mr O’Leary and Mick Nugent in the north-east LEA, who topped the poll in 2014 with 1,206 votes, but who saw his vote slump to just 668 after the first count late on Saturday night.
Party sources said they were hit by the perfect storm: A swing to the Greens, a low-turnout in key working-class areas, turnout in the low to mid-20% in some districts, and the various LEA boundary changes linked to the city boundary extension which takes effect next week.
There were also signs of recovery for the Labour Party, which was wiped out in 2014, with John Maher set to take a seat in the north-west LEA.
Fianna Fáil topped the poll in the city’s two LEAs north of the river, with former lord mayor, councillor Tony Fitzgerald, taking the first seat in the north-west on the fifth count, with 1,684 votes, and councillor Ken O’Flynn topping the poll in the north-east LEA on the sixth count.
But with long-serving councillor Tim Brosnan in danger in the north-east LEA, party leader Micheál Martin admitted that while Fianna Fáil performed well nationally, and in Cork county, it could have better managed the various geographic issues linked to the city boundary extension, and the placement of candidates to replace some of the retirements.
“We are at close to 27% as opposed to 23% in the exit poll. We had a good day overall but we didn’t maximise it in the city overall,” he said.
He also took a swipe at the accuracy of RTÉ’s exit poll which he said had again understated Fianna Fáil’s performance.
In the six-seater south-east LEA, the only one to declare final results, former Fine Gael lord mayor, councillor Des Cahill, topped the poll with 2,275 first-preference votes after the first count, the highest vote in the city.
Fianna Fáil county councillor Mary Rose Desmond made her own bit of history by becoming the first county councillor to be elected to the expanding city council on the sixth count.
When Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy and Fianna Fáil’s Terry Shannon retained their seats on the eighth count, Fine Gael county councillor Deirdre Forde was deemed elected without reaching the quota.
Sitting county councillors Joe Harris and Diarmaid Ó Cadhla were both eliminated during the count here.
In the south-central LEA, Lord Mayor, councillor Mick Finn, with 1,753 votes, topped the poll for his second election in a row to retain his seat just before 1am on Sunday, with Fianna Fáil’s Sean Martin retaining his seat on the ninth count and Fine Gael’s Shane O’Callaghan taking the fourth seat on the 11th count.
“It’s been difficult for some past lord mayors — obviously Catherine Clancy lost her seat in the last election, Brian Bermingham nearly lost his — so to top the poll and retain mine is great,” said Mr Finn.
He also described the Green Party now as “a force at local level”.
There was a long wait for results in the city’s largest LEA, the seven-seat Cork City South-west, which has expanded to include Ballincollig.
Togher-based Fianna Fáil councillor Fergal Dennehy topped the poll to retain his seat with 2,055 votes, 22 ahead of Ballincollig-based veteran Fine Gael county councillor Derry Canty, who were both elected on the sixth count.
The count is continuing.