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11 talking points from a unique election

1. The sudden emergence of Sinn Féin
Violet-Anne Wynne was a mere footnote in last year’s local elections, way off the pace in the Kilrush Municipal District. However, the Sinn Féin surge saw her take an incredible 8,987 number ones and while she still had to wait until the final count, she was always odds-on from that point to take a seat.

2. The changing of the guard
As the new year dawned, most people felt that Pat Breen and Timmy Dooley both had a very good chance of retaining their seats. In the weeks coming up to the election, it was still felt that Mr Dooley would be ok. There was a view that Fine Gael could lose a seat but many felt that would be Joe Carey, rather than Mr Breen. However, Mr Carey managed to keep his nose in front of his colleague from the first count on. Mr Dooley did make it to the last count but lost the seat he had held since 2007.

3. The return of the Mc
Four years ago, he was running for the struggling Labour party and wasn’t re-elected but Michael McNamara is heading to Leinster House once again. With the support of many farmers, he won 7,332 first preferences, while he proved very transfer-friendly and ended up on 12,205, the highest number of the four elected.

4. FG transfers

Going into the ninth count, Joe Carey trailed Timmy Dooley by 2,581 votes. His running mate had just been eliminated and he was obviously going to pick up a lot of support from him but would it be enough? There were a few gasps when the result of the next count were read out and it emerged that he had received 3,524 from Breen. It put him ahead of Dooley and he also outdid his rival in the final count, meaning it was Mr Carey who was the only outgoing TD reelected in the Banner.

5. The travails of Fine Gael
After the first count, it was quite apparent that there was no chance of both of Fine Gael TDs holding their seats. It is the first time since 2002 that the party has not won two in Clare.

6. The Crowe factor
Cathal Crowe has been a hardworking county councillor for years and has won large numbers of votes in local elections. His first general election campaign got a boost when he announced he would boycott a national RIC commemoration service. Tipped to take a seat in advance of Sunday’s count, he won 8,355 first preferences and is now planning for life as a TD.
7. No Green seat
A few weeks ago, it was felt that Róisín Garvey could well take the fourth seat. It didn’t quite happen but she still had 5,624 first preferences. It was a solid display for sure but it wasn’t her time. She might not have to wait too long for another chance.

8. The weather
On a landmark day for Clare politics, the weather was simply horrendous. Many of those travelling to the Falls Hotel had to battle flooded roads or take diversions. Luckily, those who couldn’t get there had The Clare Champion live stream to keep up to date.

9. Tally woe
Very often the tallies tell the story of what the official count will subsequently say. However, on Sunday afternoon, hours before the results of the first count were announced, it emerged that serious errors had been made in the tallying.

10. Speculation and intrigue
Because the emerging picture was so unexpected and so uncertain for so long, there may never be an election count as exciting again in Clare. All day there was fevered speculation. Elections don’t get much more exciting.

11. An incredible outcome
Years ago, if you were making a prediction about a general election in Clare, it was enough to say something like two and two, or three and one. Everyone would know you were talking about Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and that they would be at parity or Fianna Fáil one ahead. Even before the election, things had changed but no-one would have known what you meant if you had predicted it would be one, one, one and one.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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