The dust has settled on the local election results.
It was a tightly fought contest that threw up more than a few surprises.
Ballymahon LEA: Power shifts
At first glance not much changed in Ballymahon. 3 FG, 2 FF, 1 Independent. This hides several power shifts.
It was the first time in many years there was no Bannon on the ballot paper and it showed. Paul Ross with 648 first preference votes was well off the 925 achieved by Larry Bannon. Indeed, the Legan polling booth saw 90 votes go to SF which was their best booth.
However, amends were made by the new rising power for FG, Colm Murray who on his first outing polled over 900 votes, surpassing Paddy Belton’s achievement in 2009.
The FG cause was further helped by another powerhouse performance from Gerald Farrell in Lanesboro. Farrell won both Lanesboro polling booths handsomely and then went up to Newtowncashel to poll another 125 votes there. This spelt disaster for sitting Councillor Sean Farrell. He was now faced with two running mates pulling votes close to his base.
Sean Farrell always picks up votes around the constituency but this time the numbers were not there. It looks like population trends took their toll and the sun has probably set on the tradition of a Newtowncashel Councillor.
Mark Casey may have failed to win the Lanesboro booths but he got enough from them and combined with a good vote in Killashee and solid numbers around the other booths he was safe. FF saw the ever reliable Mick Cahill increase his vote yet again. Tom Victory lost out but it was always the case that he needed to be well ahead of O’Toole if he were to make it.
Independent Niamh Moran did respectably but it seems the Ballymahon vote consolidated behind the most likely candidate to win and gave O’Toole the seat.
Granard LEA: Exciting count
The Granard area was an exciting count. FG will feel they missed the boat here. FF took 3 seats with 33% of the vote, FG took 3 with 48% of the vote. The five candidate strategy probably cost FG dearly.
Micheál Carrigy almost doubled his vote, the constituency revisions were kind to him but it was still an impressive performance. Paraic Brady and John Duffy polled very well guaranteeing them both a seat. Duffy in particular surprised many. Frank Kilbride put in a brave battle but with his first preferences down almost 200 votes he was struggling.
Traditionally, there is an SF vote in North Longford and it was the best shot SF had at a seat. John Reilly put in a good performance and got more transfers than SF tend to do but he was still short when it came down to business.
James Keogh will be disappointed and he would have hoped for a stronger vote given the shift towards Independents nationally.
Despite the larger electorate Martin Mulleady’s vote dropped significantly but he was still safe to take his seat. It did perhaps contribute to the sheer size of the gap between FG and FF which is worrying for FF ahead of a general election.
PJ Reilly increased his vote and served up a reminder of his strength locally while at the end of the table, wily old campaigner Luie McEntire pulled off the great escape and had enough in the bag to see him over the line.
The Longford area served up several surprises. John Browne was perhaps the biggest of these.
His success came at the expense of several candidates and among them was Peggy Nolan who saw a considerable drop in her vote. However, she was never in any doubt as her own vote was always strong enough to take that dip. Indeed some FG voters may have been thinking strategically on this one.
Seamus Butler lost out in 2009 but he was storming back this time and his voters left nothing to chance as he safely crossed the finish line.
The next big surprise was the strength of Gerry Warnock’s vote.
His vote however spelt doom for outgoing Councillor Paul Connell. There simply wasn’t room for both of these in the seat rankings and Connell’s vote fell dramatically not helped by constituency revisions.
Speaking of constituency revisions, Padraig Loughrey was probably one of the worst hit by the changes.
He lost a very significant and loyal vote in the carve up. He had a significant challenge to prove he could still take the vote and he achieved that quite comfortably, leaving himself and Seamus Butler as the two leading lights for FF in the county.
Had Michael Connellan got a handful of votes more he too would be in that list after a very strong showing, however Mae Sexton just managed to attract those transfers and sneak up the line to take the seat ahead of him.
Voters did not swing wildly
The people have spoken and it’s now up to this group to show what they can do for Longford. Despite results nationally, Longford held firm and did not swing wildly.
In the Irish Times Stephen Collins predicted the winds of change were about to sweep over Longford politics. However, winds do not affect immoveable objects.
FF, FG and existing independents showed that their local organisations are the key. If you don’t have the reach into every little parish community then you won’t get elected.
This election was a tribute to well oiled local machines who know exactly where the vote is. It may not always be so.
People want leadership, they want innovation and they want firm and resolute action. There will be a lot of pressure on this council in the term ahead to deliver.