In both the RDS and City West count centres, some political supporters (mainly Sinn Féin) wave flags above their heads, pose for photos and cheer jubilantly. Over the course of the evening winning candidates of all stripes are hoisted on shoulders, as is traditional, while others, like the controversial Fianna Fáil candidate for Blackrock, Mary Hanafin, weep with joy.
The behaviour of the losing candidates is subtler, usually amounting to weary, sad-eyed stoicism, as they contemplate the wisdom of the people. Most start count day with arcane geographical and mathematical calculations as they analyse the early tallies, but at some point they switch to philosophy and literature.
Maurice Dockrell, a first- time Fine Gael candidate for Blackrock, evokes King Lear on the heath when eliminated (but says he's very glad he ran). Gerry Breen, a veteran Fine Gael councillor and former Dublin lord mayor, prefers Kipling (he references his line about "meeting triumph and disaster and treating those imposters just the same").
Breen admits there’s a strange mix of maths and emotion at the count. “And the emotion wants to change the maths,” he says sadly. “But the maths will never change. You won’t change what’s in the box.”
Taking it out He likens Labour and Fine Gael councillors to "the customer service department of government. You're getting it on the door. People can't take out [frustrations] on the Minister so they take it out on the person before them". His progress has been hampered by changing constituency borders. "If I get through this I'll be Houdini Breen," he adds.
How does he keep calm through it all? “Expecting victory and anticipating defeat at the same time. If you don’t it may be devastating.”
And he keeps a sense of perspective. “I’m healthy,” he says. “My family are healthy. I’ve a fairly decent, successful business. We have to count our blessings. I said to my wife this morning ‘I’ll have to give the business a bit more attention’. She said ‘maybe you should give more attention to me’. ”
Donna Cooney was a Green councillor in the late 1990s and has run unsuccessfully on several occasions since, “each time feeling like it was my last”.
Why run at all? “You get active in the community and people talk you into it. I said this time that I needed a lot of extra support and people did rally around and helped me.
“I was going around with my bicycle and trailer with posters on the back and everyone was beeping and putting their thumbs up. I felt I would get a higher first preference.”
But she doesn’t have the resources of some other candidates, she says, and the day before the election, 50 of her posters were mysteriously removed. She would like to see some restrictions brought in on postering and election literature to give less-well-resourced candidates a fair chance.
She’s disappointed, but feels that by running she has, at the very least, given people a choice. “And there’s always a little bit of hope that something might be possible.”
Pat Doherty, from People Before Profit, is a first-time candidate. “It’s a foundation for future efforts,” he concludes and he seems calm and resigned. “It was about promoting a particular political view. I enjoyed talking with the ordinary people, getting their views, trying to persuade them and get them to vote for you. It was intellectually stimulating as an experience.”
Later in City West, independent candidate and Irish Mortgage Holders’ Association campaigner David Hall seems buoyant after his elimination in the Dublin West byelection. He did better than anticipated, he says. “I was a dark horse.”
He’s still not sure what to make of his electoral experience. “It’s hard on family. And there’s a nastiness about politics – first they ignore you, then they laugh at you and when you look like a threat they attack you. But in general I’ve been energised by the experience and the outcome was a positive one.” He talks in detail about the transfer patterns and how the relative success of Sinn Féin’s Paul Donnelly “messed with my maths”.
Drink and takeaway During the week he'll take stock of it all ,"but now I'm going to get a drink and a takeaway".
Dublin Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn’s elimination was one of the surprises of the weekend.
“I still have to digest it,” he says, when we meet late on Saturday afternoon. “There was probably a perception that as Lord Mayor I was safe. And I was at the doors less than I should have been.”
He can't complain, he says. "This is a 'tide out' election for Labour and I've been there and benefited when the tide was going the other way . . . Notice to quit "And whatever we're feeling as politicians, it's nothing compared to what someone who's been served notice to quit their flat because the landlord is going to jack up the rent or someone whose children or grandchildren have left Ireland because they couldn't get a job or somebody with major medical needs getting their medical card reviewed."
Many Labour councillors have become “casualties” he says. “It reminds me of D-Day. Depending on what little amphibious craft you’re in, some guys land on beaches and don’t get much fire. Others arrive and as soon as the door opened they’re mown down. This was an election where our candidates were landing on the wrong beach.”
Yet these political “deaths” might serve a greater purpose for his party, he says. “The numbers will be pored over with relevance to the general election. Out of the death of councillors there’s information from the autopsy that can be used to keep someone else alive.” He laughs. “I’m the equivalent of a political organ donor.”