Clare country results: Fianna Fáil once against largest party

Timmy Dooley notes spring in party members’ steps after strong performance

Fianna Fáil failed to secure an overall majority on Clare County Council, but party Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley TD said there was a spring in the step of party members again in Clare after the performance. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil failed to secure an overall majority on Clare County Council, but party Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley TD said there was a spring in the step of party members again in Clare after the performance. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil are once again the largest party on Clare County Council, taking 12 of the 28 seats in the council.

The party failed to secure an overall majority, but party Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley TD said there was a spring in the step of party members again in Clare after the performance.

At the end of two marathon days of counting votes - including a number of recounts - FF secured 12 seats, while Fine Gael are disappointed with 8 - down on 12 on their 2009 performance in the larger 32-seat council.

Independents had a strong election with seven seats including new faces Ann Norton and Ian Lynch, while Sinn Féin grabbed their first council seat in Clare in decades through Mike McKee.

Seven councillors failed to hold onto their seats, including the highest-profile casualty, Mayor Joe Arkins (FG).

A councillor since 1999, he said: “I am going out on a high. I had a great year. It was the year that Clare won two All-Irelands and it was lovely to be mayor at the time of that. I have been really impressed by the way the people of Clare have treated me as mayor.”

Others to miss out were Cllr Tony Mulqueen (FG), Cllr Brian Meaney (FF), Cllr Oliver Garry (FG), Cllr Sean McLoughlin (FG), Cllr Patrick Keane (FF) and Cllr Paschal Fitzgerald (Lab).

The election’s most dramatic moment came when Fianna Fáil beat Fine Gael for the final seat in Ennis, with Cllr Claire Colleran Molloy coming from over 200 votes behind to eventually beat Ger O’Halloran by three votes.

A Fine Gael-sought recount provided anxious moments for Colleran Molloy, but it only confirmed the result.

Shortly after being engulfed by supporters, a clearly overcome Colleran Molloy said: “It is a fantastic triumph for us. This time yesterday, I was resigned to not having done enough. It is really sweet reward.

She added: “I didn’t see this coming. I actually didn’t want to get out of bed ... and come in because I felt ‘Why prolong the agony?’, but it just goes to show the importance of a good canvass.”

The celebrations surrounding Cllr Colleran Molloy came only an hour after disability campaigner and Independent Ann Norton was held aloft by supporters after grabbing the fourth seat in Ennis.

Since 2007, the mother of three, including one teenage girl with cerebral palsy, has been the driving force behind the charity-based Clare Crusaders Clinic that provides a range of therapies to the 350 children with special needs on its books.

The clinic receives no Government funding and needs to raise €250,000 from fundraising per annum to stay open.

At the count, Ms Norton said her election would help and not distract from her work with the clinic. She said: “The numbers needing our services are only going to increase because parents out there are desperate and I will be a strong voice for the voluntary sector.”

The new council had earlier been in danger of having no female councillors with the retirement of outgoing Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind) and the two will be joined by daughter of late FG senator, Michael Howard, Mary Howard who was elected on the 20th Ennis count.

Meelick native, Cathal Crowe (FF) was the youngest elected councillor in the country when first elected to the council in 2004 at 21, and he remains the youngest member on the new council 10 years on.

In his single-mindedness aimed at retaining his seat, Cllr Crowe said he had taken only a handful of days off from canvassing since the start of the year, turning down two wedding invites from friends in the run-up to the election.

Paying tribute to his political mentor, Willie O’Dea TD, Cllr Crowe explained: “When you see a finish line ahead of you, any stop can derail your campaign. I have sidelined everything. I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve.”