NEW political realities quickly dawned across Laois-Offaly in the early hours of last Tuesday morning as Fine Gael consolidated its position, and Brian Stanley made the critical breakthrough for Sinn Fein.
Yet another marathon count for the constituency saw Charlie Flanagan topping the poll, whilst it became apparent from early on that Brian Stanley was well on course for a Dail seat. Junior Minister John Moloney was the most high profile casualty of the nationwide Fianna Fail wipeout, despite some early glimmers of hope for the Mountmellick man. Elsewhere, Barry Cowen retained his family name in local politics, and Sean Fleming bucked the national trend taking a second seat for FF, in what was an exceedlingly tight contest.
Labour’s John Whelan polled well, and remained in contention throughout, while independent candidates John Foley and John Leahy also fought hard, and their eliminations and subsequent transfers of over 1,000 votes between them had a direct bearing on events.
Fine Gael expressed satisfaction with the result despite missing out on a third seat. Significantly, Charlie Flanagan and Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy were the only candidates to reach the quota. Flanagan polled 10,427 first preferences, opening a commanding lead, which saw him the first elected on the eighth count on Sunday evening.
The tight nature of the contest was exemplified by Liam Quinn’s (FG) decision to seek a recount when only 26 votes separated him from John Moloney. Quinn was subsequently eliminated when the result of the recount was called on Monday evening.
Meanwhile, John Moloney came to the rescue of Sean Fleming when, upon his elimination, 3,226 votes transferred to Fleming, allowing him to pull well ahead of Whelan and Foley on the 12th count, early on Tuesday morning.
The dye was cast on the 13th count and Corcoran-Kennedy, Stanley, Cowen and Fleming were duly elected. See inside for full coverage