Miriam Lord: War of attrition in RDS as recount drags on

Gerry Adams is still posing for photos with babies while Bertie Ahern sticks his oar in

Independent Senator Averil Power at the Dublin Bay North recount in the RDS yesterday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Independent Senator Averil Power at the Dublin Bay North recount in the RDS yesterday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


For one horrifying moment, it looked like the recounts had been abandoned in favour of a total rerun.

It was late afternoon in the RDS and a smiling party leader, surrounded by candidates and supporters, was cradling a very small baby in front of a bank of photographers.

Another election already?

Had Enda Kenny, unhappy with the first outcome, decided on a best-of-three strategy?

Gerry Adams tucked the tiny newborn in the crook of his arm and cooed for the cameras.

“I’ll be here ’til that child is one,” chuckled the Sinn Féin president, as the snappers showed no sign of stopping.

The object of everyone’s delight was five-week-old Matthew Mitchell, nephew of Denise Mitchell. Gerry’s candidate seemed set fair for imminent election in Dublin Bay North.

The baby didn’t open his mouth once. Gerry did all the talking, which is usually the way at your typical Adams media doughnut.

His arrival broke the monotony of the lengthy recount, which began earlier in the morning and was far from over.

Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton, the only candidate to be elected from the field of 20, watched with interest. Fianna Fáil’s Seán Haughey wasn’t present, but his supporters could scarcely hide their impatience at the delay. Their man was next in line for the second seat.

The destination of the final three was causing the problem, with a number of candidates bunched near the top of the list and a few handfuls of votes separating them. As the recount proceeded, it turned into a numerical war of attrition.

But the Shinners were very happy, confident of adding another name to their nicely expanded complement of TDs. North Dublin veteran Larry O’Toole came along to witness the elevation of Denise, along with a blast from Sinn Féin past, Lucilita Breathnach.

Rogue votes

I See His Blood upon the Rose.

In the RDS, where political blood was yet to be spilled, there wasn’t too much talk of changed landscapes and government formation. Minds were concentrated on the ballot papers and possible rogue votes.

Averil Power, who called for the recount because she was just 67 votes behind her nearest rival, saw that figure clawed back by a third, but it rose again a little bit.

With Mitchell deemed by the tallymen and tallywomen to be a near cert for the third seat, four names remained in contention for the last two: outgoing Independent TD Finian McGrath, outgoing Independent senator Power, John Lyons of AAA-PBP and outgoing Independent TD Tommy Broughan.

The large number of ballots which had not been stamped was a major source of discussion, as was the view that the ballot sheet was so long many voters became confused when they tried to keep track of their preferences.

One supporter began referring to “disputatious” votes.


shy wish

Joan Burton

Hours of happy fun for the talking heads.

It started first thing with a triumphant outing from Bertie Ahern on Seán O’Rourke’s morning show on RTÉ Radio One. The former taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader is a man who knows a thing or two about negotiating coalitions and the give and take required to get a show on the road.

By the time he finished giving his insights, half the nation must have been wondering if globetrotting Boutros Boutros-Bertie could be drafted in to do some troubleshooting.

Back at the count, a colleague from Northern Ireland started talking about the d’Hondt system, compounding the general air of depression.

Meanwhile, back in RTÉ, former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes was a rock of sense. A lot of blather was being spoken about forming a government, he said. Not least from those people going on about how similar situations have been addressed elsewhere.

“We should stop talking about Scandinavian models,” said Dukes. “They’re being rather misrepresented here. It’s no point saying what would happen in any other European country – we’re not in any other European country. We are here, and we have a specific problem to deal with.”

Good man, Alan. It would also stop those tiresome people rabbiting on about Borgen and the brilliance of Nordic noir.

One of the most unusual aspects of this post-election conundrum is the number of people who would sell their grannies for a sniff at power who are suddenly shrinking away from the prospect of getting their hands on it.

Power is supposed to be an irresistible drug to the type of people who choose to stand for election, but this time, all the usual suspects are embracing the politics of cold turkey.

Most unusual. But then, these are strange times. And no sight more strange yesterday than Richard Boyd Barrett and Shane Ross strolling in together to the RDS. What an uplifting cameo, the pair of them sidelining their very different ideologies in favour of the national interest.

They nearly fainted at the thought.

Line up there lads and we’ll take a photo, we suggested.

“No!” shrieked AAA-PBP stalwart Boyd Barrett, as if we’d asked him to go out on a date with Denis O’Brien.

Lord Ross of Sindo Towers immediately ducked.

Mandates in mind

Adams, meanwhile, had mandates on his mind.

Questioned about Sinn Féin’s refusal to entertain going into government unless it is the majority party, he said they had to remain true to the people who had voted for them on this basis. They’ve been given a “very significant” and “very legitimate” mandate in this regard.

“It isn’t being Sinn Féin-centric and it isn’t being tactical,” he said.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (who, when seeking their mandates, made it extremely clear to voters that they would not do business with each other under any circumstances) were, on the other hand, “playacting”, and this, thundered Adams, when there were people lying on hospital trolleys.

Gerry, urging them to come together, had some confusing advice: “A good start would be for the parties to stick to the mandate they were given.”

If somebody doesn’t call Boutros Boutros-Bertie fast, we’ll all be back on the campaign trail as soon as the last Air Corps jet clears the GPO on Easter Sunday.