Charlie Flanagan and Tom Parlon
THE 2002 election amounted to a home run for Fianna Fail who swaggered home victoriously with an emphatic win in which they took half the vote in Laois-Offaly.
The political earthquake occurred elsewhere with the apparent decimation of Fine Gael which, at the local level, saw the departure of Charles Flanagan, and an ascendant Tom Parlon making the breakthrough for the Progressive Democrats.
Poll topper Brian Cowen topped the poll with 12,529, leaving him almost 2,000 votes to spare. John Moloney secured the highest Laois vote with 8,093 and took the fourth seat on the sixth count with 10,972. Sean Fleming was elected on the sixth count with 10,453.
Meanwhile, a large swathe of the Fine Gael farmer vote flocked to former IFA leader, Tom Parlon who secured a massive first preference vote of 9,088, placing him second candidate elected on the fifth count with a final vote share of 10,572.
Charles Flanagan’s defeat was the sensation of this election because of the perception his seat was safe. Conventional wisdom entering the campaign was that either John Moloney, Sean Fleming or Olwyn Enright might lose to the PD candidate.
However, Flanagan was squeezed out with a first preference showing of 6,500.
The election was bittersweet for Olwyn Enright who became the constituency’s first woman TD and the only standard bearer carrying a limp Fine Gael baton.
She secured a vote of 8,053 and leapfrogged over Moloney to become the third candidate elected on the sixth count with 11,005 votes.
For Labour it was another election horribilis as their candidate John Dwyer found himself eclipsed by Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley to the tune of 1,000 votes.
Stanley secured 2,600 votes, whereas Labour limped home with 1,600. Independent candidate Molly Buckley received 1,695.
Independent stalwart Joe McCormack secured 351 first preferences and declared that it was the end of the road for him in elections. Plus ca change!
The first count results were as follows:
Buckley Molly Ind 1,695
Cowen Brian FF 12,529
Dwyer John Lab 1,600
Enright Olwyn FG 8,053
Fettes Chirstopher GP 520
Flanagan Charles FG 6,500
Fleming Sean FF 7,091
Kelly John Ind 236
Killally Gerard FF 4,719
McCormack Joe Ind 351
Moloney John FF 8,093
Parlon Tom PD 9,088
Redmon Michael CSP 142
Stanely Brian SF 2,600
ELECTED: Brian Cownen (ff), 1st count; Tom Parion (PD) 5th count; Olwyn Enright (FG) 6th count; John Moloney (FF) 6th count; Sean Fleming (FF) 6th count.