Fine Gael’s grand coup

A brilliant but risky piece of vote management by Fine Gael saw the party take two of the three seats in the Roscommon/South Leitrim constituency as the votes were counted at the Hyde Centre in Roscommon Town last Friday.   The victory for Fine Gael meant that veteran Leitrim Fianna Fail TD John Ellis lost his seat and with no Leitrim candidate being elected in Sligo/North Leitrim it means that County Leitrim will have no representation in the 30th Dail.   The count revealed a huge personal vote for Boyle Senator Frank Feighan who took a seat for Fine Gael in spectacular fashion and a poll-topping performance for Fianna Fail Deputy Michael Finneran who garnered almost 10,000 first preference votes.   The Fine Gael strategy threatened to affect front bench spokesperson Deputy Denis Naughten but after an early scare he was elected comfortably in the end.   The first count revealed that Deputy Finneran got 9982 first preference votes folllowed by Senator Feighan on 9103, Deputy Denis Naughten on 8928 and Deputy John Ellis  on 7915.   Independent candidate John Kelly polled well to get 4539 votes and Sinn Fein’s Martin Kenny polled a respectable 3876 votes but both men were well behind the top four.   Hughie Baxter (Labour, 832 votes) Gareth McDaid (Greens, 836 votes) and Noel O’Gara (Independent, 66 votes) were all eliminated after the first count as the contest developed into a battle between the two big parties.   The elimination of Martin Kenny and John Kelly was always going to be the deciding factor as to who was going to be elected and that’s the way it turned out.   However the transfer of votes from Martin Kenny to John Ellis did not materialise in as big a numbers as the Leitrim Deputy needed and after that the writing was on the wall for the TD from Fenagh.   In contrast Senator Feighan received a very healthy transfer from both Kelly and Kenny to ensure that he was the first candidate elected.   The turnout was a very high 74.43% and the quota was a very high 11,520 which means that we had to wait until count four before all three Deputies were elected with Deputy Ellis the high-profile loser.