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Three places that tell the story of the local elections

The same story played out nationally in the local elections: Fine Gael holding its own, Independents storming ahead and scores of Sinn Féin candidates left trailing

Dublin City Council – Fine Gael

As he arrived at the RDS where European election votes were being counted on Sunday, Taoiseach Simon Harris spotted Ray McAdam, who had just been elected for Fine Gael in Dublin North Inner City.

“My poll topper!” Harris exclaimed as he embraced McAdam, with a beaming Paschal Donohoe looking on. As soon as the first boxes were opened the previous morning it became clear that McAdam was on track to top the poll. He was elected on the eighth count in jubilant scenes in the RDS Main Hall.

With the final results in, Fine Gael is now the largest party on Dublin City Council, taking over from Fianna Fáil, which lost three seats and finished with eight councillors elected. The party was especially pleased with McAdam’s performance, as there had been fears at one point that Sinn Féin would mop up support in different parts of the north inner city.

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Instead, Sinn Féin candidate Janice Boylan was elected on the 12th count, polling behind Independent Christy Burke. The two other Sinn Féin candidates barely featured and polled poorly. The same story played out nationally: Fine Gael holding its own, Independents storming ahead and scores of Sinn Féin candidates left trailing behind.

In Cabra Glasnevin, Mary Lou McDonald’s back yard, Fine Gael pulled off a result that might have been unthinkable just months ago. Fine Gael took home 18.4 per cent of the first-preference vote, compared with Sinn Féin’s 16.9 per cent. “That just sums it all up,” one Fine Gael figure remarked as the results came in.

In Pembroke, James Geoghegan and Emma Blain were both elected on very healthy numbers. In Kimmage-Rathmines the party soared ahead with 20.3 per cent of the first-preference vote. Fine Gael’s success in Dublin was replicated in the national picture and in the fact that as the final counts rolled in it was in contention to become the largest party of local government overall.

South Dublin County Council – Sinn Féin

When it comes to South Dublin County Council, Sinn Féin went all in with an ambitious strategy aimed at taking them from four seats to 21 seats. It’s fair to say they threw the kitchen sink at it – canvassers were flat out trying to cover the constituency areas. Although local candidates were happy to have media watch them make their case to voters, they were privately anxious that journalists would slow them down as they raced to reach every door before polling day. Such was the level of focus on bringing the Sinn Féin message to voters.

After years of preparation following 2019′s disastrous outing for Sinn Féin, hopes and expectations were very high. Canvassers genuinely believed they were in with a shout of making significant gains. In Clondalkin the dream was to go from four seats to seven. In Firhouse they ran two candidates for five seats. The same in Lucan. In Palmerstown-Fonthill they ran four candidates for five seats. In Tallaght Central they ran four candidates for six seats.

But as the tallies emerged on Saturday, party members could see immediately that big trouble lay ahead. There were too many candidates splintering the vote. The final result in South Dublin County Council encapsulates everything that went wrong for Sinn Féin. Independent candidates won the largest number of seats on South Dublin County Council, taking 10 of the 40 seats. The same picture played out nationally with Independents stealing Sinn Féin’s clothes, and Sinn Féin perhaps having got its strategy all wrong. In the end, Sinn Féin made the most modest of gains: one seat. It was the same picture across the country overall – gains so slight that to be seen boasting about them would cause embarrassment in and of itself.

Meath – Independents

It was Independents’ day across the country and especially in Meath County Council. In Trim, Independent candidates took a whopping 37.5 per cent of the first-preference votes. Independent councillor Noel French was elected on the first count with a staggering 3,963 votes. The former Fine Gael member attributed his success to being closely in tune with the needs of his local area and of always being available on the phone and for questions. In Ashbourne, Independent candidates took 43.1 per cent of the first-preference vote. Here, Independent councillor Joe Bonner was elected on the first count with 2,685 votes, while Independent Amanda Smith was elected on the second count with 1,514 votes. Bonner campaigned for better infrastructure, flood relief and promised to “prioritise the interest of the public over party politics”. Clearly, this is a message that resonated with the public across the country, with more than 170 Independent candidates elected as of Monday evening.