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Shannon MD analysis: Youth has its day


THE Shannon Municipal District now has two female representatives and two twenty-something members, after last weekend’s results.

There was a feeling in advance that David Griffin and Rachel Hartigan could do well, and both were propelled onto the local authority, having won very large first preferences.

With Pat McMahon not running there was a clear opportunity for someone from Newmarket to win a seat, but there was no guarantee that it would be taken.

 However once the early tallies came in it was clear that David Griffin had won a very strong local vote, something confirmed when the first count gave him 1534 number ones , well ahead of the quota of 1456.

Griffin won 694 of 1013 votes cast at Newmarket on Fergus National School, according to the tallies, while at Stonehall National School, he took 166 out of 249.

It was an exceptional performance and he actually ended up with more than 500 first preferences than Pat McMahon took five years earlier. 

In the aftermath of his election he told The Clare Champion he hadn’t realised just how strong his vote would be. “This was a big surprise. I was expecting to come in around the 1,000 mark and work my way up from there. I really didn’t see a poll topping performance. 

“Politics is a difficult game and until those boxes open you don’t know what i s happening. To come out with 1,500 votes is a huge achievement and is testament, I think, to the work that we put in, but also to the work that the campaign team and wider team put in. I’m delighted.”

It took until the tenth count for Rachel Hartigan to get over the line, but it did seem inevitable she would get there after 1203 first preferences, another excellent performance, and at 22 years of age she was the youngest person elected in the county last weekend.

 She may even be the youngest female county councillor ever seen in Clare. 

The new councillor was a pupil of Cathal Crowe’s when she was in national school and has also worked for the Clare TD. 

At one point Deputy Crowe was himself the youngest councillor in Clare. Most young people who run for elections at a local level have ambitions to go higher, could Ms Hartigan fill the shoes of her mentor one day? For the next few years at least her focus will have to be on local issues.

The town of Shannon still has two elected councillors, with Donna McGettigan being returned and Tony McMahon making a successful comeback.

Ms McGettigan got 1141 first preferences, and was elected after the eighth count, having got a good level of transfers from her running mate James Ryan and fellow Shannon candidate Keith McNamara.

She got almost 100 more first preferences than the late Mike McKee won for the party in 2019, before his passing saw Ms McGettigan co-opted.

It is the first time she has won a seat in her own right. Interestingly, she won the extra votes despite Sinn Féin having an extra candidate in the Municipal District this time.

While at first glance it might look like her performance is not necessarily that encouraging for a prospective TD, in reality she has won more votes than her predecessor, and presumably she would have taken some of James Ryan’s votes were he not in the race. As it was 222 of his votes transferred to her after his elimination.

Sixmilebridge’s John Crowe held his seat without too much difficulty, beating the quota on the tenth count, having taken 1256 first preferences. It is the sixth time he has been elected to the local authority.

Tony Mulcahy, Pat O’Gorman and Michael Begley were all elected without reaching the quota.

When this reporter arrived at the count centre early on Saturday the first candidate he spoke to was Councillor Begley. At the time votes were being tallied and he said things weren’t looking that good for him, but that he should be okay in the end. It proved a startlingly accurate prediction by Sunday night. 

Crucially he stayed in the race longer than Val Gillane, with both of them almost tied after the first count. 

However Begley proved much more transfer friendly and was tied with PJ Ryan on 1235 votes apiece after ten counts. One hundred and thirty five votes of Rachel Hartigan’s surplus fell to Begley, with just seven going to Ryan. 

It was also this count that saw Pat O’Gorman and Tony Mulcahy elected, and like Begley, neither reached the quota.

It marks the return of Mulcahy to the Clare political scene, and it was the first election he contested since he was elected to the Seanad in 2011.

His political career had seemed to be an end when he didn’t run in 2019, but he obviously feels he has energy, enthusiasm and ability to make a difference.

For O’Gorman it is the first time he has been elected since 1999.

He came up short three times since then, but in early 2020 he was co-opted after Cathal Crowe was elected to the Dáil.

That opened the door for him, as he had almost a full council term to become established, and he did take the opportunity, taking the fifth of the seven seats.

The most notable faller of the day was independent PJ Ryan.

He secured 986 first preferences, more than 150 ahead of Begley and only marginally behind Mulcahy, but didn’t get the level of transfers needed throughout the day, finally losing out on the last count. He finished on 1242 behind Begley (1370), O’Gorman (1407) and Mulcahy (1324) all of whom were elected without reaching the quota.

Ryan had been elected on three consecutive occasions.

There is no doubt that he worked very hard as a councillor and did his best to advance the interests of his community.

On a philosophical note, the turnover of candidates tells us a lot about life and the impermanence of everything.

Of the seven candidates elected five years ago, only two have been returned. Two have exited politics, one was not re-elected, one won a Dáil seat and one died at a young age. 

Another five years of highs and lows are ahead. 

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.

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.