Crowley retains his seat but criticises FF tactics


South count: Fianna Fáil's Mr Brian Crowley last night retained his seat in the Euro South constituency, but his party colleague Mr Gerard Collins was facing defeat after Independent disability-rights campaigner Ms Kathy Sinnott outpolled him by over 15,000 votes, or 3 per cent of first preferences to set herself up to take the third seat.

Mr Crowley topped the poll with 125,539 votes or 25.9 per cent of first preferences - some 8.1 per cent down on his 1999 performance but still some 4,471 votes above the quota to take the first seat in the three-seat constituency on the first count.

Fine Gael's Mr Simon Coveney looked set to take the second seat with 118,937 or 24.6 per cent of the vote - just 2,131 votes short of the quota.

Ms Sinnott looked set to take the third seat with 89,127 votes or 18.49 per cent - some 15,996 votes ahead of outgoing Fianna Fáil MEP Mr Gerry Collins, who polled 73,131 first preferences, or 15.1 per cent - a drop of 3.4 points on his 1999 performance.

Sinn Féin's Mr David Cullinane won 32,643 first preferences, or 6.7 per cent of the vote, which marks a 0.2 per cent increase on Mr Martin Ferris's performance in 1999.

Meanwhile, Labour's Mr Brendan Ryan polled 19,975 first preferences or 4.1 per cent of the vote - down 2.2 per cent on Ms Paula Desmond's performance in 1999.

Mr Chris O'Leary of the Green Party polled 10,896 or 2.2 per cent - no change from when Mr Dan Boyle ran for the party in 1999. Meanwhile, Independents Mr Anthony O'Connor, Ms Lilly Moynihan and Mr Gerard Hannan polled 17,97, 5,831 and 6,394 respectively.

An hour before the first count was announced, Mr Crowley fired the first salvo in the war of recrimination that is likely to break out in Fianna Fáil over the loss of a second seat.

Mr Crowley laid the blame for the fiasco squarely at the door of the party's director of elections in the South constituency, the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue.

Mr Crowley said that he had written to Mr O'Donoghue last January and urged him not to introduce a geographical divide in the constituency.

He said that he made it clear to Mr O'Donoghue that such a move would only benefit candidates other than Fianna Fáil's two candidates.

"If you deny the candidate the opportunity to go and canvass all of the areas, you are only benefiting the Independent candidates and Fine Gael.

"I put this in writing to John O'Donoghue in January and he ignored it and the result is here today."

"If they are a success, the director of elections takes the credit, not the candidate, but if its a failure, equally, it should stand with the director of elections," he said, adding that the Fianna Fáil vote in 1999, when there was no divide, was 53 per cent and the vote now was "drastically down" on that.

Mr Crowley said: "If the director of elections won't take note of what one of the candidates is saying, that's not a problem for the candidate, that's a problem for the national director of elections.

"I don't hold any bitterness towards anybody - again I'm saddened that we won't hold our two seats here in Munster.

"And then you have the director of elections denigrating candidates by saying that if you put up Winnie the Pooh, they'd win a seat - that's denigrating not just me but to any candidate.

"It's symptomatic of the attitude that John O'Donoghue has had as director of elections and he's been proven wrong in that attitude."

Mr O'Donoghue said: "I don't think it will benefit the party to get involved in recriminations. The truth is, as Frank Cluskey once said, we just didn't get enough votes."

Mr Crowley said: "I feel somewhat vindicated now by what the result is, because what I said to John O'Donoghue has actually happened - I'm not happy about that, don't get me wrong, but that's what happened."