Fianna Fáíl's Joe Flaherty celebrates with his family following his poll topping achievements at the weekend
The events of the past seven days or so may have been a forgettable one for Fianna Fáil, but in Joe Flaherty the party might just have found its political messiah.
The Longford based newspaper director has long been heralded as the man charged with restoring Fianna Fáil’s local as well as national fortunes by becoming its first TD since the late Peter Kelly in 2011.
Yet, in the lead up to last Friday’s vote much of the spotlight on Cllr Flaherty’s local election campaign had not been directed at whether the father of three would get elected, but rather where his candidacy would ultimately finish once counting got underway.
As it transpired, not only did the Lanesboro native comfortably return to the chamber of Longford’s local authority, but he did so by seeing off 15 of the District’s other candidates.
“I’m very happy,” he said, as he quickly switched his attention to his three other party running mates still vying to follow him across the line.
“I was happy with my vote but obviously I’m conscious of the people coming behind me. We (party) still have Seamus Butler, Martin Monahan, Uruemu Adejinmi on the battle front, so I’m hopeful that at least two, if not three will come in behind me as well.”
Those hopes were loosely based on the 215 surplus votes which came his way and the solid performances of both group leader Seamus Butler (656 first preferences) and Martin Monaghan (576 first preferences).
Approximately 77 of those, or just over a third went the way of both of his aforementioned party colleagues, thereby enhancing claims that the party might yet attain its pre election objectives of three seats.
“I haven’t had a chance to reflect on the figures, but I do believe that Martin has polled extremely strong for a first time candidate,” he said.
“I think it’s an outstanding vote and I think it’s an outstanding vote.”
There were warm sentiments too, aired in the direction of fellow first time candidate Uruemu Adejinmi whose 248 first preference return endorsed her own political capabilities to consider running in future elections.
And Cllr Flaherty wasted little time in launching a thinly veiled swipe at the main government party amid claims Fine Gael were on the cusp of re-establishing its stranglehold over the finer workings of Longford County Council.
“Fine Gael obsess over power and are obsessed with being in power,” he said bluntly.
“We (Fianna Fáíl) look at the greater good.
“We’ve been within the council for the past five years and we’ve had a very consensus led council and we involved the Independents and Fine Gael.
“That’s the way we operate. With Fine Gael, it’s a bit like Game of Thrones.
“They’re clutching at it (power) and rattling at it, but at the end of the day, we’re here to serve the people in Longford and that’s ultimately what we want to do and we’re keen to get back into the council chamber, keen to get back into the various SPCs and get this county moving because we’ve had wanton neglect now for seven years, irregardless of the spin that the government is putting out there.
“They can repackage as many announcements as they want, but the reality is we’re not getting service, we’re not getting funding, we’re not getting the investment that this county and specifically rural Ireland deserves.”