THE parties behind the big winners in the Local Elections have all admitted they made mistakes and each believes it cost them seats.
When the newly-elected Clare County Council sits for its June 6 AGM, there will be 12 Fianna Fáil, eight Fine Gael, seven Independent and one Sinn Féin members.
In percentage terms, 57.5% of the electorate voted, with 52,114 people casting their ballot. Despite picking up nearly 36% of the valid poll, Fianna Fáil’s director of elections, Gerry Reidy, said he believes they could have managed two further councillors in West Clare and in Shannon.
Fine Gael, while securing 31.5% of the valid vote, took some heavy blows, with Mayor of Clare Joe Arkins losing his seat after opting to run in the Killaloe area.
Independents secured over one fifth of the available vote and with it, a quarter of all representatives in the new council.
Sinn Féin, with 4.2% of the total valid poll, had a candidate elected. Mike McKee is the first Sinn Féin county councillor to win a seat since PJ Burke (Miltown Malbay electoral area) in 1974.
However, despite this victory, the party believes it could have taken a seat in West Clare had it selected its candidate Noeleen Moran earlier and another in Ennis, if not for the resignation of its candidate there, two days before the election.
The count lasted 28 hours in the West County Hotel, Ennis on Saturday and Sunday.
The Ennis, West Clare, Shannon and Killaloe Municipal Districts must meet within 10 days of the county council AGM. Therefore, these newly formed bodies, which Councillor PJ Kelly says “lack clarity”, must meet on the week of June 9.
For the first time in the county council’s history (1899–2014), a female Fianna Fáil councillor will take a seat on the 28-member body, following the election of Clare Colleran-Molloy in the Ennis Municipal District. She will be joined by fellow female councillors Ann Norton (Independent) and Mary Howard (Fine Gael).
Joe Cooney (FG) achieved the highest vote in Clare, with 2,843 first preferences in the Killaloe Municipal District. The quota was 1,585 and many of his second preferences went to Fianna Fáil candidates ,with that party winning three seats in the Killaloe district.
Fine Gael’s strategy in Kilrush imploded spectacularly following the election of Independent candidate Ian Lynch, who was an outgoing Fine Gael town councillor. He was rejected at the Fine Gael selection convention in favour of Marian McMahon Jones. Both candidates picked up some of Oliver Garry’s votes and this played a significant role in the outgoing Kildysart councillor losing his seat.
Christy Curtin (Independent) topped the poll in West Clare, while James Breen in Ennis and Cathal Crowe in Shannon did likewise.
Amongst other outgoing councillors to lose their seats were Mayor of Clare Joe Arkins, Seán McLoughlin and Tony Mulqueen (FG), Brian Meaney and Pat Keane (FF) and Pascal Fitzgerald (Labour), leaving his party without a representative in the council chamber.
Meanwhile, speaking on Tuesday, Councillor PJ Kelly, who has sat on the council since 1974, said there is confusion as to how the four municipal districts will operate.
“As we approach the AGM on June 6, there is a total lack of clarity regarding the structure of the municipal districts. The regional authority is to be replaced but still we don’t know what the nominations are.
We should have been informed what the system was and then the people would have known what they were voting for. That’s not defined as we speak,” Councillor Kelly said.
“There is also a total lack of knowledge regarding committees. There was very little thought put into the division of electoral areas but it looks like that there was even less thinking put into their operation,” he added.
By Nicola Corless & Peter O’Connell