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Election 2020

SF’s history maker breaks another mould

Denise McNamara

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Galway- Roscommon's three TDs (from left) Michael Fitzmaurice, Claire Kerrane and Denis Naughten. Photos Gerry Stronge

You could be tempted to recall that the tension was so rife it managed to cut the power in the Roscommon-Galway constituency in the early hours of a freezing Monday morning.

But if the truth be told, from the very earlier tallies the writing was on the wall for the two big parties in the newly redrawn constituency, which threw up a number of historic milestones in Election 2020.

Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane fought off outgoing Fianna Fáil TD and former radio broadcaster Eugene Murphy for the third seat without reaching the quota on the sixth count – the first time in a century that the party took a seat here, a constituency which had the first ever Sinn Féin elected politician.

Her victory – celebrated to the strains of ‘A Nation Once Again’ – in just her second run at politics leaves the constituency one of only two in the country without a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil TD. The result ensures that its reputation as being fierce contrarian remains unblemished – ever since the foundation of the State it has never returned sitting politicians.

Way back in 1917 George Noble Plunkett won a by-election in North Roscommon for Sinn Féin as an MP, the first time the party – then known as Republican – won a seat in Westminster. He later took a seat in the Dáil in the 1921 general election.

Kerrane, a 27-year-old from Castlerea who became a political advisor in Sinn Féin headquarters after polling 3,000 first preferences in the 2016 poll, will be only the second woman ever to win a seat in Roscommon, following in the footsteps of Joan Burke who served for 17 years until her retirement in 1981.

The daughter of a school principal and a beef farmer, her close association with the leadership should lead to a high-profile position in the next government, which will likely be some weeks off as the horse-trading begins in earnest. During a short interview with the Connacht Tribune at the count centre, she name-checked leader Mary Lou O’Donnell no less than three times.

Poll topper Michael Fitzmaurice was the first Independent candidate to be elected in the country after increasing his vote by a third to pull in over 13,000 first preferences.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Election 2020

Labour fails to make up ground

Stephen Corrigan

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Galway West Labour Party candidate Niall McNelis and his wife Aideen at the Galway West count centre on Monday morning.

On the canvass three weeks ahead of the election, Cllr Níall McNelis told the Galway City Tribune he believed Labour’s time “on the bold step” had come to an end.

But as soon as ballot boxes were opened on Sunday morning, it became apparent that wasn’t the case. In fact, the first preference vote share for Labour in Michael D Higgins’ former constituency had decreased to just 3% – a further decline from the 5% Derek Nolan managed in 2016.

Labour’s hammering wasn’t contained to Galway and it’s clear they haven’t been forgiven for their time in Government with Fine Gael. Nonetheless, Cllr McNelis said he was “devastated” by the result when he visited the count centre on Monday morning.

He’d been eliminated on the fourth count the day before, having received 1,548 first preferences.

“I was at home yesterday – I was devastated, gutted, but I know it’s not personal. The party is in trouble and we’re going to have to look at that. The unions have left us and they’re voting for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael. That was our core vote; we were a workers’ party once upon a time.

“We were the party that fought for marriage equality long before anybody else – the SocDems have taken that mantel off us; the repeal of the 8th Amendment, we were the ones who fought for that,” said Cllr McNelis.

“The Left vote is very, very crowded here in Galway so [Labour is] going to have to regroup and reorganise. I have to explain what Níall does a bit more. The result that we got, people have been ringing me and saying, ‘Níall, we’re sorry, it was Labour and not Níall’.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Election 2020

Down but not out – Crowe considering Seanad bid

Dara Bradley

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Seanad bid: Galway West Fianna Fáil candidate Ollie Crowe during the count.

When one door closes, another opens. That appeared to be the motto of Ollie Crowe, who bowed out of the race in Galway West on the seventh count.

No sooner had the electorate shut the door on his hopes of taking a second seat for Fianna Fáil, the city councillor was contemplating a bid for a seat in the Upper House of the Oireachtas.

“We just came up short; the national trend affected it in the last couple of days. I was delighted to get 5,200 first preferences in my first time standing for Dáil Éireann. I’m disappointed but I feel overall, I revitalised Fianna Fáil in the city and rebuilt the party.

“I’m honoured and humbled that public representatives have asked me to stand for the Seanad and that’s something we’ll discuss over the coming days and weeks and make a decision on that,” he said.

Cllr Crowe told Galway City Tribune that Fianna Fáil made a mistake supporting Fine Gael in ‘Confidence and Supply’ for four years. “We probably stayed in too long – four years is too long. People wanted change, people spoke for change and we were too aligned with the Government.”

He said that a coalition with Sinn Féin “wouldn’t be my preference”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Election 2020

Party unstuck by a green wave of a different hue

Dara Bradley

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Galway West Green Party candidate Pauline O’Reilly with her daughter Cara (9) after she was eliminated.

Pauline O’Reilly’s biggest supporter, her daughter Caragh, cuddled into the Green Party councillor’s side as she gave an interview to the Galway City Tribune at the count centre on Sunday, after being eliminated on the sixth count in Galway West.

The nine-year-old was by her mother’s side last May as well, when Cllr O’Reilly – and two other Galway councillors, Martina O’Connor and Alastair McKinstry – was elected in the local elections on the back of a ‘Green wave’.

Less than a year later, and ger Dáil bid came unstuck by another green wave – green of a Republican tinge.

She was tipped by many political pundits and rival candidates, as the likely beneficiary if Galway West returned two ‘left’ seats. And a TG4 constituency poll the week before voters cast their ballots, confirmed Cllr O’Reilly was bang in contention. But then came the surge for Sinn Féin, which her supporters felt on the doorsteps.

“We knew a week out that I was in trouble; I felt in the last couple of days support had shifted back a bit. I wasn’t shocked when I saw the tallies because I was feeling the worry a week ago and I knew it hadn’t come back sufficiently. Certainly, a lot of younger people, children and teens, were upset at the lack of conversation about climate and the environment but it just wasn’t coming up strongly enough with adults,” she said.

Cllr O’Reilly took 6% of the vote with 3,650 first preferences, an increase of 3.5% compared with Seamus Sheridan in 2016, but she was swamped by Sinn Féin’s rise.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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