A NATION Once Again rang around the walls of the Tullamore Count centre in the early hours of Tuesday morning as Sinn Fein’s supporters celebrated their re-emergence as a political force in Laois Offaly.
Following the celebrations their new TD gathered the rank and file from the four corners of the new constituency to remind them of the party past and the importance of what they had achieved.
“We should never as a party and as a republican movement forget the people who went before us - James Connolly, Bobby Sands and all the other people who have bravely fought for Irish freedom and justice over the last number of years.
He thanked his supporters, cummans members and councillors. He praised his Laois and Offaly teams for their outstanding and fantastic work. “Nobody could have asked more” he said of his supporters who he praised for braving the elements since the election was called travelling the length and breath of a vast constituency.
“It is a great day for Sinn Fein for all those who supported us right from the River Barrow in Graiguecullen to the Shannon and from Cullahill up to Rhode,” he said.
In anticipation of his historic election, the Sinn Féin Vice President, Mary Lou McDonald, had travelled to the Count Centre in Tullamore. and the newly elected TD remarked on the historical significance.
“It is the first time since 1923 since Sean McGuinness an anti-treaty election candidate stood for election,” he said.The former Laois County Councillor polled the third highest after the first count with 8,039 first preference votes. Less than 250 votes behind Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen.
Formerly a ‘transfer toxic’ party, Deputy Stanley garnered over 3,500 votes in transfers and spent long periods of the count in second place behind Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan. He was elected on the 13th count. with 11,775 votes, just short of the quota.
“I’m very, very happy with the number of first preference votes,” he said, “we were right up there just behind Barry Cowen, the front runner with Fianna Fail. It’s a huge success for the party locally.”
Deputy Stanley attributed his strong performace to the party having a stronger representation across both counties, but particularly in Offaly, where he took over 3,000 votes. “The last time I contested a general election, I was the sole representative for Sinn Fein, but this time we are represented on Portlaoise, Mountmellick and Tullamore town councils.
“The Tullamore vote increased substantially this time round, it has more than doubled. The extra 1,400 votes in Offaly is down to Cumann in north offaly and our supporters in Tullamore and across the county. It was a huge benefit to have people on the ground as far as Banagher.”
Deputy Stanley told supporters that he looked forward to joining his leader Gerry Adams in the Dail.
“We will be working together as a team to work out best how we can stand up for the poeple in our constituency and the people of Ireland to reclaim the country for the people and to stand up for people and get fair play,” he said.
Cllr Stanley encourgaged his supporters to move forward and build on the sucess.
“In this constituency I want to continue working with our councillors and increase the number of councillors we have. I want to increase the number of Cumman members. The message I am trying to get to you is that we can elect people to Leinster House but we must continue working as a team and build an alternative politics accross the constiuency,” he said.