Several surprises and a few close calls before 12 candidates elected

Mon, Feb 28, 2011, 00:00

INDEPENDENTS:TWELVE INDEPENDENTS had been declared elected last night, an increase of four on the last Dáil, separate to the United Left Alliance. The seats of five of the eight Independents in the outgoing Dáil had been secured.

Finian McGrath fought off a Fine Gael challenge and a strong Labour performance in Dublin North Central to win on the seventh count having secured 15.4 per cent of the first preference vote.

Close Dáil colleague Maureen O’Sullivan, Dublin Central, won 12 per cent of the first preference vote and also won on the seventh count. Michael Lowry, Tipperary North, surprised nobody with his 29.2 per cent first preference vote to win on the first count.

Mattie McGrath, Tipperary South, secured his seat on the fifth count, having polled 14.7 per cent of the first preferences, defeating a challenge from Labour’s Senator Phil Prendergast.

In Kerry South, Michael Healy-Rae, on the sixth count, won the seat vacated by his father, Jackie Healy-Rae, who has retired. His 15.1 per cent of first preferences proved to be a sufficient base to win a seat in what had become one of the most unpredictable constituencies in the State.

Of the other sitting Independent TDs, Mary Harney had retired in Dublin Mid West, while Noel Grealish was in contention for a seat in Galway West as a recount progressed last night.

The big surprise among the outgoing Independents was Joe Behan’s anticipated loss in Wicklow where a full recount takes place today. He saw his first preference vote slump from 9,431 in 2007, when he topped the poll as a Fianna Fáil candidate, to 4,205. Mr Behan resigned from Fianna Fáil over the Government’s decision to withdraw the automatic entitlement to medical cards for over-70s. Although he sat on the Independent benches, he sometimes voted with his former Fianna Fáil colleagues. One Leinster House source put down the decline in his vote to his failure to distance himself fully from his old party.

“Joe always voted on the basis of what he thought was the right thing to do,” said the source. “Perhaps, too often, it involved siding with Fianna Fáil, which had become toxic.”

The newly elected Independents are: Senator Shane Ross (Dublin South), Mick Wallace (Wexford), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (Roscommon-South Leitrim), Tom Fleming (Kerry South), John Halligan (Wateford), Catherine Murphy (Kildare North) and Thomas Pringle (Donegal South West).

Mr Ross’s performance was the most spectacular, as he secured 23.5 per cent of the vote in the five-seat Dublin South, winning on the first count with 17,075 first preferences at the expense of one of the two Fianna Fáil seats as Fine Gael took the other.

Mr Wallace’s Wexford performance was also impressive, as he secured 13,329 first preferences, 17.6 per cent, and took a seat on the first count at Fianna Fáil’s expense.

A Fianna Fáil loss also paved the way for Mr Flanagan who was elected on the fourth count, having secured 18.8 per cent of the first preference vote.

As expected, Mr Fleming took the seat of his former general election running mate, John O’Donoghue, in Kerry South, on the sixth count having won 14.5 per cent of the first preference vote. He now joins Mr Healy-Rae as the second Independent in the constituency. Fine Gael has the third seat.

Mr Halligan’s victory in Waterford, on the 11th count, was unexpected, but it was clear he would be in the running having secured 10.3 per cent of the first preference vote with the prospect of transfers as the count progressed.

Mr Pringle’s victory was at the expense of Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, as he capitalised on his strong performance in the byelection which returned Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty to the Dáil. Mr Pringle secured 13.5 per cent of the first preferences and was elected on the fifth count.

Ms Murphy won back her seat in Kildare North on the fifth count at Fianna Fáil’s expense. She polled 13.5 per cent of the first preference vote.