Billed as a possible cliff-hanger, the box-office potential of Galway West didn’t quite materialise.
Just as in the GAA where replays rarely meet the expectation created by the drawn matches, this constituency count didn’t deliver on the all pre-election hype.
In fairness, Galway West 2016 had a tough act to follow. Five years ago, there was enough tension and drama produced for two elections. This time, not so much.
In 2011, the last of five seats wasn’t filled until the Wednesday morning, following almost 70-hours of counting, including two recounts. And after all that, four days and late nights, just 17 votes separated the final two candidates.
This weekend was much more straightforward. And there was no need for sleeping bags.
Counting of votes began at 9am Saturday in NUIG and continued for 16 hours. Counting resumed at 9am Sunday, and nine hours later, shortly after 6pm, all five seats were filled.
As expected, sitting TDs Éamon Ó Cuív (FF), Noel Grealish (Ind), and Seán Kyne (FG) were all returned, along with Hildegarde Naughton (FG) and Catherine Connolly (Ind).
But just because the outcome wasn’t as tight as 2011, and just because there was no recount, there was still ample material to keep political junkies entertained.
The vagaries of the proportional representation system and trying to predict the destination of eliminated candidates’ transfers, kept the pundits, politicians and their supporters sated or on edge.
Fine Gael were sweating over the early tallies, which confirmed what most observers felt beforehand – the party was in a right old battle to retain its two seats.
Saturday afternoon, sitting TD Seán Kyne was worried. Colleagues were dropping like flies all over the country, as he conceded Fine Gael’s election campaign misjudged the mood of voters.
By tea-time Sunday, Kyne’s seat was secure and colleague Hildegarde Naughton coasted in ahead of Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh on the final count, thanks to FG Mayo TD, John O’Mahony’s transfers.
The FG camps had been taking lumps out of each other – often publicly – during the campaign, which, as it turned out, did them no harm.
Stiff competition and tight transfers ensured former Galway football manager O’Mahony had delivered two seats for Fine Gael, on top of the two All-Irelands he delivered for Galway over a decade ago.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
TALLIES: Half of boxes open in City West
With half of the boxes in Galway City West tallied, the state of play in the six-seater is:
Donal Lyons (Ind) 23%
Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) 14.75%
Niall McNelis (Lab) 11.89%
John Connolly (FF) 9.86%
Pearce Flannery (FG) 9.48%
Peter Keane (FF) 7.3%
John Crowley (Soc Dems) 6.3%
Clodagh Higgins (FG) 5.9%
Salthill and Taylor’s Hill boxes being tallied now
Left and right find middle ground
There is a tired old cliché about people singing from ‘the same hymn sheet’ – but despite their diverse political backgrounds, it could certainly be applied in the case of Galway city’s two new TDs.
Because Fine Gael’s Deputy Hildegarde Naughten and independent TD Catherine Connolly hold common ground when it comes to a lot of issues relating to Galway city.
For example, in the aftermath of the general election they both agreed that University Hospital Galway should be moved to a greenfield site at Merlin Park. They also articulated this view on the first day of the new Dail last week.
And, separately, they were both in favour of the provision of dedicated bus lanes throughout Galway city with the acceptance that there will be no outer bypass for at least another decade. Deputy Connolly believes that the current proposal is simply “a cul-de-sac” and should never have been progressed.
Left-leaning Independent TD Catherine Connolly and right-leaning Fine Gael TD, Hildegarde Naughton, both believe UHG is at saturation point and are committed to the development of a new public hospital at the larger, more accessible site east of the city.
This, along with the promotion of public transport initiatives to help end traffic chaos in the city, is one of the common policy objectives the two new women TDs share.
They are only the second and third women TDs ever in Galway West, following in the footsteps of former Fianna Fáil minister, Máire Geoghegan Quinn.
Fianna Fail attempts to woo Grealish again
Pressure is mounting on Galway West TD Noel Grealish to join Fianna Fail as the party attempts to be part of the next government.
The Fianna Fail organisation in the constituency are now convinced that Grealish may provide the party with the answer to winning a second seat in Galway West. And the organisation are disappointed that veteran TD Eamon O Cuiv has not delivered a second seat in the last two general elections. If Fianna Fail assume power, it is very unlikely that the Cornamona man will have a place at the front bench.
The party organisation in Galway West are now anxious that Grealish becomes part of their fabric and particularly as he is a proven vote-winner.
Grealish is part of an unofficial grouping in the Dail who are currently engaged with the two major parties with a view to forming a minority government.
The fact that the Carnmore man has been a TD since 2002, it is likely that he could be part of the front bench in the next government if he agrees to become part of the support that Fianna Fail require.
It was revealed last week that he had been approached by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to join up but he was not to be drawn on the issue.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.