It was interesting to experience the local elections from the other side of the radio. I opted to go to Castlebar, instead of going to the count. There will be more elections, there might not be too many Roscommon wins in the senior championship in MacHale Park!
As usual there were winners and losers, great stories and surprises too. In the Roscommon electoral area Tony Waldron came from almost nowhere to sweep into a seat after a brilliantly run campaign. Fair play to Marty McDermott as well. He did a lot of the canvassing on his own and it is not easy for a non-sitting councillor to get elected. Paschal Fitzmaurice got a massive vote and surely now he is looking east towards Leinster House! Fianna Fáil must be thrilled with their vote in this area, with established councillor Orla Leyden also elected. Kathleen Shanagher’s reputation as a hard-working councillor paid off and Nigel Dineen did very well to retain his seat.
Commiserations to my old buddy Domnick Connolly who missed out this time around. It was just not to be for him, and he was squeezed with a lot of very high profile candidates running on his doorstep.
John Cummins blazed a trail in the Boyle area once again. He is a top class councillor and a great community man. Valerie Byrne also did very well. She is a highly efficient public representative who is building her vote all the time. Michael Mulligan bucked the trend of a collapse in the Sinn Fein vote by holding on to his seat comfortably, while Tom Crosby’s return to the Council is a superb achievement. Liam Callaghan and Joe Murphy did well to get in in such a competitive field. It’s incredible to note that Liam Callaghan is only one of two Fine Gael councillors elected in the county.
Independents Tony Ward and Ivan Connaughton swept up votes all over the place in the Athlone electoral area. John Naughten flew the flag for Fine Gael once again while John Keogh was the only Fianna Fáil councillor elected in that area, which is surprising. The election of Donal Kilduff and Laurence Fallon means that – incredibly – there were four independents elected in Athlone out of the six seats.
Overall though, Fianna Fáil can be well pleased with their vote in the county. However, Fine Gael had another very poor outing, with no councillor elected in the Roscommon/Castlerea area and only two elected overall. Another surprising aspect to this election was the collapse of the Sinn Fein vote locally and nationally. After a decade of steady growth, something has gone badly wrong there and Mary Lou (McDonald, party leader) will come under some pressure now.
Nationally, the performance of the Green Party is the story of the election – expect Leo Varadkar and the Government to react to the results with a raft of ‘Green’ policies – including hefty carbon taxes – when the Budget comes around in October.
However, being a keen political observer for decades, I have my doubts about this so-called ‘Green Wave’. If the Government slaps a carbon tax of 10 or 12 cent a litre on diesel in the Budget, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the public, particularly in rural areas. Yes, we have to do something about climate change and young people are very exercised about the issue – and rightly so too – but there is a political reality here as well.
Having spent the weekend on the road and away from the count, I had plenty of time to tune into radio coverage and I have to congratulate Shannonside on their superb coverage from early on Saturday morning. It was so easy to find out what was going on in the local area. I was involved in many of those election broadcasts over the years, and they have it off to a fine art now. Well done to all concerned. Hopefully when the next count is on it won’t clash with a major championship match!