Molloy says he is 'chuffed' with PD performance in Galway West


NEWS: PD expectations had been building throughout the evening, as the long Galway West count continued..

The Progressive Democrats late last night took the final seat in Galway West, with Mr Noel Grealish winning the seat previously held by Mr Bobby Molloy.

It was the Progressive Democrats' eighth seat in the next Dail.

Mr Molloy, watching the count in Salthill, had been expressing optimism that the PDs would take the seat. "I'm so chuffed about this," admitted Mr Molloy, who resigned over a month ago in dramatic circumstances.

He acknowledged that the PDs' strategy of running three candidates - three well-known PD councillors giving the party a very good geographical spread - had not been favoured in party headquarters, Mr Molloy said. However, it had worked, which was why Mr Grealish found himself within 100 votes of Fianna Fáil Senator Margaret Cox by the 11th count.

The word was that he was in shock. Owner of a family business in Carnmore, Co Galway, he had taken 400 first-preference votes in his own home "box". As his party colleagues remarked, there was "hardly a candidate in the country that did something like that".

Yet there were still vital transfers, most notably from the Independent and former Fianna Fáil candidate, Seamus Walsh, of Oughterard, and the party was refusing to write off Sen Cox last night. The Minister for the Marine, Mr Frank Fahey, defended the party's vote management strategy and denied that there had been any "conflict" among the three candidates.

He attributed his own first-preference vote, which was slightly down on 1997, to some "difficult decisions" which he had had to make in his ministry, including the introduction of quotas on wild salmon fishing and the registration of small inshore vessels.

Ironically, after Mr Fahey was declared elected on the seventh count, the Independent and Connacht-Ulster MEP, Ms Dana Rosemary Scallon, was then eliminated. She had polled on 1,677 first preferences, and had just 1,920 votes to distribute by the time she was gone. Mr Fahey did not appear to take any pleasure in her demise, having accused her of being a "bankrupt politician" and a "useless MEP" before the election campaign started.

Out at the roundabouts, there were already "thank you" posters up, erected by Fahey's supporters in Fianna Fáil.

"Le Pen supports Dana" had been stuck on several of Ms Scallon's advertisements.

Back in the count centre, Labour's Michael D. Higgins and Fine Gael's Padraic McCormack were both returned.

And a recount was already being predicted if the margin between Cox and Grealish proved too close.