Story of the month: Election drama as Longford finally gets TD
The slogan of Longford’s newest TD, Joe Flaherty, was ‘make Longford matter’ and it is a message that seemed to resonate with the electorate as he became the second candidate elected to the 33rd Dáil from the Longford/Westmeath constituency in last February's general election - seems an awful long time ago now!
His triumph, alongside that of outgoing TD Robert Troy, helped Fianna Fáil capture two of the four seats on offer, the first time the party achieved that feat in this constituency since 2007 when Mary O’Rourke and the late Peter Kelly were elected.
First-timer Flaherty polled a hugely impressive 7,666 first preferences and by the time the count ended he was on 11,064 votes.
Against the backdrop of Sinn Féin’s incredible #GE2020 performance that saw Sorca Clarke comprehensively top the poll, it was a noteworthy double and the highlight of an otherwise disappointing campaign nationally for Micheál Martin’s FF.
Ms Clarke, who failed to win a seat in last year’s local elections in Westmeath, hoovered up votes in every corner of the constituency, including an estimated 3,500 in Longford, as she garnered 11,848 first preferences or 21% (a huge increase of 11.5% - 5,270 - on 2016 when Paul Hogan ran for SF), and she comfortably exceeded the 11,277 quota by 571 votes.
Outgoing Fine Gael TD Peter Burke, who saw his first preference vote increase by 936, rising from 5,681 in 2016 to 6,617, clung on to his seat but there was bitter disappointment for Athlone-based junior minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran who failed to retain his seat, making him one of the highest profile casualties.
It was the transfer of 2,828 votes from the eliminated Cllr Micheál Carrigy (FG), the current Longford County Council Cathaoirleach, that got Flaherty across the line.
However, the Ballinalee postmaster and Co Longford Tourism Chairperson, who was first elected to the county council in 2009, and secured 6,334 first preferences did lament the fact that 3,500 votes left Longford and went to SF’s Sorca Clarke.
If a chunk of those votes went to first-time GE candidate Carrigy, then Longford, perhaps, could have been celebrating the election of two TDs.
There was some consolation for him as he was later elected to the Seanad.
The fact that 40% of Carrigy’s votes remained in Longford suggests that voters in the county gave #1 and #2 votes across party lines.
Other Longford-based candidates were James Reynolds (National Party), Barbara Smyth (Solidarity People Before Profit) and Frank Kilbride (Independent).
Feud fears on the rise
A second house in a Longford town estate was damaged following a suspected petrol bomb attack on Monday, February 24, just as a nationwide appeal was being launched into an almost identical incident that occurred the previous week.
Gardaí said they were hunting for two males who were seen at the doorway of a house shortly before an attempt was made to set fire to it.
The incident occurred just as Superintendent Jim Delaney appeared on RTÉ's Crimecall programme where an appeal was made.
Teachers strike on pay
Second level teachers took to the picket lines in Longford on Tuesday, February 4 in a bid to end pay inequality in the profession.
The one-day stoppage by the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) saw all Educational and Training Board backed schools across the country shut their doors in protest.