The 47-year-old from Bandon topped the poll and finished ahead of Michael Collins, an Independent county councillor from Schull who repeated his pledge to team up with the likes of the Healy-Raes’ across the county bounds in Kerry to deliver for his native West Cork.
The Fianna Fáil/Independent one-two left Fine Gael’s Jim Daly as the only outgoing Dáil member to hold on his seat and, immediately after he was elected, the Clonakilty-based TD claimed his party should take to the opposition benches.
Along with Ms Murphy O’Mahony’s historic success, significantly, it was the first time in almost 60 years since the coastal constituency returned an Independent.
It took until the fifth count at the Clonakilty centre for anyone was elected, but it proved to be the last one required.
Ms Murphy O’Mahony, who said she was “delighted, privileged, and proud” to take a seat, landed 8,482 first preferences in the first count, with Daly in second place and Collins in third.
That proved ominous for outgoing TDs Michael McCarthy of Labour and Noel Harrington of Fine Gael. Even before the loss of his seat was confirmed, Harrington accepted Fine Gael was 500 votes short of a win, despite the party polling well ahead of its national showing.
In addition to the strong showing of Collins, another factor in the shake-up was the under-performance of another Independent, councillor Alan Coleman, who quit Fianna Fáil last year. It had been suggested that he would be in with a chance of a seat but he secured 4,955 first preference votes, less than half the quota of 10,815.
The ex-county mayor later said he was “disappointed” with the outcome, as did Michael McCarthy, who said Labour had not looked after itself as much as it had the country and now needed a period of reflection.
However, he was also of the view a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition is likely and that another election could take place as early as April.
Rachel McCarthy of Sinn Féin, who came sixth on the first count, just ahead of her namesake, expressed mild disappointment with her party’s showing in what she said was still a “conservative” constituency.
Ms Murphy O’Mahony, cheered to the rafters throughout, said Fianna Fáil voters who had switched in 20l1 came back, adding: “And why wouldn’t they?”
She also said Michéal Martin’s performance had helped and that she had started canvassing last June. She was circumspect about a possible Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition and added: “I am delighted to make history for all the right reasons and I hope it shows that this is possible. I am ready, willing and able to make this move in my life.”
Michael Collins, a noted community activist before entering the political fray in the 2014 local elections, had busloads of supporters arive from Schull.
“It has been a brilliant campaign,” he said. “We have covered every townland and village in West Cork and the message from the people was they wanted change. They were hurting, they were hurting quite a lot.
“The vibes were good and they wanted an Independent candidate who will represent their views and I will join with the Healy Raes inside in Dáil Éireann and I’ll start delivering for West Cork.”
Jim Daly, who was elected shy of the quota with the elimination of his party colleague, congratulated his fellow newly elected TDs, and echoed Harrington’s view that Fine Gael had been “performing against the wind”.
“That’s what happens, winds come, winds go,” he said, claiming the party were 900 votes short in Cork South West.
As for the national picture, he said: “I think we still don’t know what went wrong. Something went badly wrong, there’s no question about that.
“If I was leader of Fine Gael in the morning I would be urging the party to go into opposition.
“The people have said ‘no, thank you’.”
As for Enda Kenny’s position, he said: “Many people have said that maybe some of the utterances he made during the campaign were not helpful, yeah, maybe some of them were not particularly helpful but having said that I don’t think that’s the reason why the party is where it is today.”
Meanwhile, father of three Collins, a dry stock farmer in the Mizen peninsula who topped the poll two years ago in his first-ever local authority election, is the first Independent to be elected in south-west Cork since 1957 when Florence Wycherley — father of actor Don Wycherley — secured a seat in the former Cork West constituency.