Dun Laoghaire: FF scuppers its own chances as FG vote management bags two seats

FF gets highest first preference in Dun Laoghaire but fails to take a seat, write Joyce Fegan and Ed Carthy
Dun Laoghaire: FF scuppers its own chances as FG vote management bags two seats

The south county Dublin constituency of Dún Laoghaire lived up to its reputation of refinement. Boxes were opened by 9am, three candidates were elected from their contents, and they were closed again by 9pm.

The big names here were Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor, People Before Profit and the Anti-Austerity Alliance’s Richard Boyd Barrett, and Fianna Fáil stalwart Mary Hanafin.

The popular Mary Mitchell was a shoo-in so the story to watch here was whether Hanafin could rise from her 2011 ashes.

In the run-up to the general election drama surrounded Fianna Fáil in the constituency. One of its councillors, Cormac Devlin, who has 12 solid years in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council chamber was nominated to run nationally for the party.

In a similar tale to what happened in the local elections of 2013, between Hanafin and the younger Fianna Fáil candidate Kate Feeney, the former education minister decided she too, wanted to run.

Fianna Fáil was wiped out here in 2011, so the likelihood of getting one seat, let alone two, was low. Between Devlin, on 4,665 and Hanafin on 6,478, the pair took in 11,143 first-preference votes. This combined number is greater than any of the first-preference votes received by the three horses that eventually crossed the line in Dún Laoghaire.

Mary Hanafin: Lost out.
Mary Hanafin: Lost out.

The result? Neither Fianna Fáil candidate made it to the 32nd Dáil.

Count one came in just after 4pm. No one made the quota of 14,810 votes. It wasn’t until count six that the constituency had its first elected candidate.

Boyd Barrett, holding his hands across his chest, and with 15,718 votes to his name, said he was “genuinely humbled,” to take a seat.

“It looks like it’s going to be Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael doesn’t it?” he said when asked about the formation of the next government.

“Since I’ve started in politics I’ve never understood the difference between them anyway,” he added.

Things moved swiftly from here and in count seven, the two final candidates, Fine Gael’s Maria Bailey and Mary Mitchell O’Connor followed Boyd Barrett to Leinster House.

Flanked by her two sons, Conor and Steven, Mary Mitchell whooped the air in joy and pulled her boys in close as the cameras began to flash.

“Well obviously I’m delighted and I’m delighted we brought in two seats — that was the plan from the word go. The party asked me to vote manage with councillor Maria Bailey and we really work well together,” she said. Unlike Fianna Fáil’s scuppering of a seat, Fine Gael’s vote management won them two seats in the constituency and Mary Mitchell was only too glad to leave the drawbridge down behind her.

Something she wasn’t too keen to delve into though was the topic of a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

“I’ll talk about that tomorrow, that’s a conversation that’s really for another day,” she said.

When told that her interview would not be appearing in print until Monday’s papers, so tomorrow really was today, she still wouldn’t budge on the talk of a coalition. “Well then it’s a conversation for next week,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the party will not help either of the two main parties form a coalition government.

With final numbers in a heavily fractured Dáil not expected until today, Mr Adams dismissed any idea that his party would support one of the traditionally dominant forces in politics — Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“We aren’t going to go in there (to government) and betray our electorate and betray the other people who need a progressive government,” he said.

“We are not going to go in and prop up a regressive and negative old conservative government, whatever the particular party political complexion.”

Mr Adams’ rejection of what would be a left-right coalition maintains the position his party adopted during the lacklustre election campaign.

With support for establishment parties plunging to a near record low, prospects for a new coalition government are in deep disarray and weeks of protracted negotiations are on the cards.

The fracturing of traditional centre-right politics suggested widespread disaffection with the once dominant forces and austerity — a mirror of the voter schism which has crippled parliaments in Spain, Portugal, and Greece.

Mr Adams said: “You can always do better. I would love that we were going into government with a majority — that takes time. These other parties have more depth, have more structures, have more organisation, have more resources.”

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