First time candidate Martin Ryan swept into council on the back of 2,157 first preferences Picture: Michael Cowhey
THE Cappamore-Kilmallock count was like a movie. From early on you thought you knew how it would end but then there was a major plot twist. The consensus among seasoned political observers was that it would be three Fianna Fail - Mike Donegan, Eddie Ryan, Martin Ryan; three Fine Gael - Greg Conway, John Egan and Ger Mitchell and Independent Brigid Teefy.
A couple of minor characters at the start became major players at the end - Kilmallock man PJ Carey, Independent and Fine Gael’s Noreen Stokes, Pallasgreen. The former got elected while the latter came within 30-odd votes.
After the first count Brigid Teefy, Independent, received 2,420. Fianna Fail’s Martin Ryan, from Cappamore, got a massive vote for a first-time candidate. He got 2,157. Both exceeded the quota of 1,905. Simultaneously, both were hoisted shoulder high in the air as cheers rang out.
Eddie Ryan was just 83 votes back and was elected on vote three. The tallies revealed he got 438 out of 553 number ones in Galbally. Just shy of 80%. Terminator 2 wouldn’t get a look in.
Politicians at counts are like swans. Calm on the surface but underneath their brain is paddling furiously. The emotion pours out when elected. When asked about his misty eyes, Mr Ryan said: “Gee, you have me going again now. It was a tough one, it was a tough campaign. There was a lot of road recovered.”
On his family, friends and supporters Mr Ryan said: “You would be nowhere without them. They are a rare breed.”
With three down it was still expected that the four seats would be taken by three Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s Mike Donegan.
John O’Gorman, Independent, 117; Shane Hogan, Aontu, 423 - a good vote - were eliminated. On count four Fianna Fail’s Joe Meagher’s votes were distributed. The popular former councillor from Oola had 627 number ones.
Ms Stokes, in neighbouring Pallasgreen, got 189 of these. Things were getting interesting.
The Battle of the Balbec was an election within an election. Greg Conway, Mike Donegan, Trevor McCarthy and PJ Carey are all Kilmallock men. All four got strong votes. According to the tallies, Mr Conway topped the poll with 306, then Mr Carey 290, Mr Donegan 276 and the Social Democrats’ Mr McCarthy 252.
Mr Carey is a runner and he was staying in the race. But he still needed 180 votes to catch Mr Conway.
After count five Mr McCarthy was eliminated but the operator of Kilmallock Medieval Tours is ready for the long war. Mr Carey picked up a whopping 257 of Mr McCarthy’s 776.
Next on the block was Sinn Fein’s Jim Hickey. He was many’s dark horse for a seat due to his strong GAA connections. But the Ballylanders man fell victim to Sinn Fein’s national downturn. Lisa Marie Sheehy got almost 13% in 2014 to Mr Hickey’s 5.2%.
The distribution of his 803 votes proved crucial.
The transfer friendly Mr Carey again got the most with 216. Out of nowhere he was nearing the finishing line.
Former councillor Bill O'Donnell said: “I’m not running and I’m nervous!”
He was one of three sitting councillors along with Noel Gleeson and Lisa Marie Sheehy who didn’t run again. Like Mr O’Donnell, Mr Gleeson, who was supporting Martin Ryan, were prowling around the count. They might have stepped back but politics is in the blood.
After count seven, Mr Mitchell stood on 1,754; Mr Egan 1,519; Mr Carey 1,412; Ms Stokes 1,351; Mr Donegan 1,301; Mr Conway 1,241.
The exclusion of Mr Conway came as a big blow to Fine Gael. His votes of 1,241 stayed local. Mr Carey proved the most popular with 271 but Mr Donegan got 245.
As Mr Mitchell now exceeded the quota he was elected around 11.30pm.
Seconds after the announcement, the Hospital man thanked all his canvassers: “Without them I wouldn’t have got over the line,” he said. In the moment, he also remembered all his supporters who had gone to their God - Kevin Barry, Kilmallock; John Joe Fitzgerald, Effin; Tom O’Donovan, Grange and Tom Kiely, Herbertstown.
At the time it looked like Ms Stokes would lose out - as she did in the end. Mr Mitchell said it was “disappointing” not to gain a third Fine Gael seat.
PJ Carey, the man who would take it from them, was nowhere to be seen. One observer said it was “unprecedented” that a candidate in with a shout was not at the count or have representatives there.
On to count nine and Mr Mitchell’s surplus of 112 was distributed. Four remained - the missing man 1,683, Mr Egan 1,685, Mr Donegan 1,546 and Ms Stokes 1,474. Four into three seats doesn’t go. Ms Stokes fared the best with 51 but she couldn’t catch Mr Donegan who had 33 votes to spare in the end.
Mr Carey, who had arrived in the nick of time, Mr Egan and Mr Donegan were elected around 12.30am.
Mr Carey candidly admitted he thought he was “dead and buried” on Saturday.
“I had a few things to do today, a bit of work. I had the phone off for a few hours,” said Mr Carey. Like Donald Trump, he said he thought he wouldn’t get in. But in he is and Mr Carey has lots of building plans. But to construct facilities and not walls, I hasten to add.
Mr Donegan must have felt like he was on a rollercoaster. On Saturday morning he was gone, later that afternoon he was fine, on Sunday it was perilously close.
“I got a fright yesterday at 12 o’clock - I was going home. I got a fright this morning and I got a fright tonight. It’s been a long 48 hours. Fair play to all the candidates. Congratulations to those who got elected and commiserations to those who didn’t. I’m delighted for my family, my supporters, Fianna Fail members, Niall Collins and his office. I look forward to working with my colleagues over the next five years,” said Mr Donegan, who described Kilmallock as a “battlefield”.
Where there is a winner there has to be a loser. Ms Stokes said: “I’m very proud of myself, I did my family proud, my constituency proud. I was written off yesterday, I wasn’t even mentioned but by God am I mentioned this evening. I got transfers from every box.”
The Pallasgreen lady, above, said she was “very disappointed” in her parish.
“I’m very involved in my parish. Unfortunately they didn’t all come out to vote but the percentage who came out to vote didn’t vote for their candidate,” said Ms Stokes.
The last word goes to the last person eliminated
“You’re not going to hear the last of me!” declared Ms Stokes. Movies are full of redemption stories.
Read also: European Election: Recount in Ireland South
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