ELECTION counts often provide a few hours’ entertainment for the casual visitor, but they can be hellish for the candidates and those close to them.
Last Sunday evening will surely never be forgotten by Gerry Flynn as he was announced as winner three times, but on two occasions recounts were sought, meaning a long and difficult evening for the Miltown native, who has made his home in Shannon and represented the town for many years.
While he shook hands with Garret McPhillips after the initial recheck, there was no handshake between the two after the final outcome.
Speaking this week, Councillor Flynn said that at that stage he was quite drained by the process.
He was clearly irritated by the fact that Mr McPhillips had sought the recount after the recheck, despite the two having shaken hands. “If I shook your hand and congratulated you, I’d mean it. What’s wrong at all now, is there no substance in a handshake?”
Councillor Flynn said the closing hours had been a very difficult experience for him. “I’ll put it to you this way, there’s been a lot said, a lot written about the weekend, it’s over, we’ve moved on. It’s only myself and my family, who witnessed the whole process, who are best placed to understand what pressures we had to endure, we were under substantial pressure, when you are an Independent you have very little resources, very little power behind you. When you have a big party, irrespective of the party, with resources – personnel, legal and otherwise – it’s just a scary place.”
He added, “I’m in politics a while and I never witnessed anything like it, to be declared a winner three times. It’s a crazy, crazy scenario, but I’ve moved on, I’ve been advised that the decision is being accepted and there won’t be a legal challenge.”
Parties found it much harder to get candidates this time compared with previous elections, and he feels that there is too much personal criticism nowadays. “There are a few media outlets, The Clare Champion, the Clare People, Clare FM, that have shown balance in this process, but I couldn’t say the same for a lot of the other mediums that are there, that found it easy to put throwaway remarks out there. It doesn’t do anything for society in general.
“There is a human side to all of us, people think when you are a politician you lose your humanity. There is a public side to what I do, but there is also a personal side to me as well. I have come out of this election probably stronger, I’ve probably learned a lot from the process and it has certainly shown me sides of politics that I would want nothing to do with.”
He feels that efforts were made to discredit him. “I worked hard for my community, I did my best. In the lead-up to this election it seemed there was an orchestrated move to discredit me and to make me look bad in the eyes of the public.”
Asked about the attempts to target him, he said, “Look at the timing of meetings, the timing of PPN meetings, meetings being hijacked by people looking for people like me to sign this, that and the other. I found the whole thing very troubling. I’m a fulltime councillor, I couldn’t have done more than I did for the last five years, I worked extremely hard, I took no holidays for that whole period and I couldn’t have done more than I did. I held my core vote, it was 1,040 in 2014 and it was 1,041 this time, but more than likely there were people who voted for me last time who didn’t vote for me this time and new people who saw the work I was doing and supported me.”
He says that before the election he felt that he would struggle to hold the seat and is relieved to have done so. “The positive thing is that it’s over, I came through, I am elected and I’m in the process of trying to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement and that’s where we’re at. With the help of God, everything will go to plan.”
However, he was very unhappy with the events of Sunday evening. “It is not something I would like to have to go through again, I felt for my family and friends who were there to witness it, it was distasteful, I didn’t like it.”
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.