#Elections2019: FF and FG to turn to Independents for County Hall control

Independents will hold sway in Cork’s County Hall despite Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continuing to underline their dominance as the main parties in the local authority.

#Elections2019: FF and FG to turn to Independents for County Hall control

Independents will hold sway in Cork’s County Hall despite Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continuing to underline their dominance as the main parties in the local authority.

Fianna Fáil was up 4% to 34% and Fine Gael up 5% to 32%, demonstrating their vote management qualities and securing up to 38 of the 55 seats, with FG (20) and FF (18).

But with either failing to reach a majority, they are both likely to turn to the Independents to control the mayoralty and power in County Hall.

Meanwhile, a recount is due to commence this morning for the Bantry local area. After a total poll of 11,670 was completed, it all came down to one vote.

Yesterday evening at the Clonakilty count centre saw Independent Finbarr Harrington ahead of Holly McKeever Cairns of the Social Democrats by the slimmest of margins, but the latter request a recount before the declaration.

The re-count was scheduled to get underway in County Hall this morning.

Overall, a few former councillors produced comebacks, in particular, ex-Labour Party mayor Martin Coughlan who returns as an Independent in the Macroom area while Sean O’Connor (Ind) who retired five years ago took a seat in Cobh.

But the passion of youth in the new council will be reflected through Independent Ben Dalton-O’Sullivan, a 19-year-old UCC student who plans to devote all his time to both his studies and council duties in the Carrigaline LEA.

And, in Midleton, FF’s newcomer and the party’s youngest candidate in Cork county, James O’Connor, plans to “rearrange” his Trinity College business and economics studies to give ‘top priority’ to his work on the council.

In West Cork, UCC political student Kate Murphy was elected in a tightly fought four-seater in Bantry, following in the footsteps of her father, the late Michael Pat Murphy (Ind) and the late TD and parliamentary secretary Michael Pat Murphy sr (Lab).

Meanwhile, FF’s Seamus McGrath romped home with a huge 4,247 votes in Carrigaline, the highest in the county.

Sinn Féin, however, with 5% lost 9.5% of its vote throughout the county and its representation dropped from 10 seats in 2014 to two - Danielle Twomey in Midleton and Paul Hayes in Skibbereen LEA.

In North Cork, Fianna Fáil’s vote management was superior.

All of the party’s seven candidates across the Fermoy, Kanturk and Mallow electoral areas were elected on the first count - including a hat-trick in Fermoy.

Frank O’Flynn, Deirdre O’Brien and William O’Leary all exceeded the 2,116 quotas in Fermoy, and in Mallow the local Chamber president Pat Hayes topped the poll with 1,806 votes, while party mate Gearoid Murphy followed just 12 first preferences behind, both securing their seats on the first count.

In Kanturk, Fianna Fáil incumbents Bernard Moynihan and Ian Doyle took 2,843 and 2,325 first preferences respectively, exceeding the quota.

The four-seater was decided quickly. Fine Gael’s John Paul O’Shea pulled 2,314 votes, also exceeding the quota on the first count while colleague Gerard Murphy rounded off proceedings in Kanturk by taking the fourth and final seat on the second count.

The Mallow five-seater was seen as a formality when the early tallies emerged, but it took until the fifth count to confirm that Fine Gael’s Tony O’Shea and Liam Madden would join Hayes and Murphy, and James Kennedy (Lab) who also exceeded the quota on the first count.

It was a bad day at the office for Sinn Féin, whose sitting councillor Melissa Mullane lost her Mallow seat. The party’s candidate in Fermoy, Helen White, was the first to be eliminated.

Also in Fermoy, Fine Gael’s Noel McCarthy comfortably topped the poll with half a quota to spare, joined by the Fianna Fáil trio of O’Flynn, O’Brien, and O’Leary.

Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, who was elected on the first count in LEA Midleton, with her supporters. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, who was elected on the first count in LEA Midleton, with her supporters. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Fine Gael’s Kay Dawson took the fifth seat on the third count, and the transfers over the subsequent five counts were not enough for the chasing pack of sitting Social Democrats Councillor June Murphy, Labour candidate David Kenneally and White to catch Frank Roche (Ind).

In West Cork, it all came down to that one vote. The matter may be determined this morning in County Hall.

It was the most dramatic element of a marathon count for three local authority areas following the redrawing of boundaries across West Cork.

In Bandon-Kinsale, some things stayed the same: Alan Coleman (Ind) was elected on the first count but, whereas in 2014, it was behind Rachel McCarthy of Sinn Féin, this time it was in second place behind poll-topper Gillian Coughlan of Fianna Fáil.

The Sinn Féin vote collapsed but, otherwise, the final picture was similar: three FG - Kevin Murphy, John O’Sullivan and Marie O’Sullivan, and Sean O’Donovan of Fianna Fáil.

The count rarely threatened any drama, with Gillian Coughlan stating that Fianna Fáil’s strong showing meant the electorate had finally forgiven them for recession years.

Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), in neighbouring Skibbereen, believes his poll-topping performance means he should be considered on any party ticket for the general election.

His father Christy previously took West Cork by storm as an independent and took a Dáil seat with FF.

The Clonakilty-based councillor was elected on the first count with his Skibbereen-based party colleague Joe Carroll, elected on the second count.

But the drama here was the tussle between Paul Hayes of Sinn Féin and Fine Gael newcomer JJ Walsh. The latter had been tipped in some quarters as a possible poll-topper but it wasn’t to be.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes

Early in the piece, Hayes had admitted he was facing an uphill challenge to retain his seat.

Walsh pointed out that due to boundary changes in the reconfiguration of the LEAs across West Cork, neither man could vote for themselves.

With Karen Coakley of Fine Gael and Independent Declan Hurley ultimately elected, it meant an ebb-and-flow contest between the two men, with Hayes taking it.

It was equally tight in Bantry West Cork, a four-seater that saw Danny Collins, brother of TD Michael, romp to victory on the first count with a huge first preference haul of 3,149.

County Mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) retained his seat, elected on the sixth count, by which time Katie Murphy of FG was just shy of the third seat.

While that was a formality, the battle for the fourth and final seat was between Finbarr Harrington and McKeever Cairns of the Social Democrats, who surprised many with a very strong first preference total.

After the sixth count, just three votes separated them; by the seventh count Harrington was just 12 votes ahead.

It all came down to the transfers of the surplus vote of 67 from Katie Murphy - 1,865 votes in total for Harrington and 1,864 for McKeever Cairns.

The recount means they do it all again.

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