Features of the Tramore Town Council elections, apart from the return of four new members, were the success of the country’s youngest local authority candidate and the fact that Fianna Fail’s fall from grace was as evident there as everywhere else.
Leaving Cert student Tom Raine (19), elected on the 11th and final count, brought to four the number of Fine Gael councillors returned to the nine-member body, up from three. The others are Ann Marie Power and Lola O’Sullivan, both outgoing, and newcomer Maxine Keoghan – the third of the outgoing trio, Mayor Raymond Hayden, did not seek re-election.
As for Fianna Fail’s performance, it managed to get Joe O’Shea over the line on the final count having polled 192 first preferences to stand ninth among the 15 contestants. The party’s second candidate, Gina Hutchinson Kelly, polled lowest with 129 first choice votes. Its lone member compares with three on the outgoing Council.
It has to be said that two of those three, Dan Cowman and Ben Gavin, did not seek re-election while the third, Blaise Hannigan, ran as an Independent after the party failed to nominate him to contest a County Council seat.
That might well have been a stroke of fortune for the straight-talking Beach Park resident who was fifth to be elected – on the third count – after Ann Marie Power, Lola O’Sullivan, Labour’s Paddy O’Callaghan and poll-topper Joe Conway were returned on the first count.
The other four members – including Independent Pat Finnerty, the former Fianna Fail activist who made a similar switch as Blaise Hannigan – were returned on the final count. So the new Council is made up of three Independents, single FF and Labour representatives, as well as those four from Fine Gael.
Probably the hard luck story of the elections was that of Sinn Fein’s Declan Clune, who was sixth on first preferences (261) but, last to be eliminated, just missed out in the end through a lack of transfers.
The industrious Stan Nangle of The Greens was disappointed to garner only 187 first preferences, but he suffered from his party’s national dive in popularity. There was sympathy also for outgoing Independent James McCartan who only got 136 first preferences, despite having worked diligently on the town’s behalf as a Council member.
The performance of Joe Conway in retaining his seat by comfortably heading the poll (657) – he was also elected to the County Council – can only be described as exceptional. Although the Longford native and retired school principal has lived in Tramore for 23 years, he said afterwards that the level of support he received disproved the theory among some that “outsiders” found it difficult to gain acceptance in the resort.
“I find it genuinely humbling that so many people voted for me”, he commented, adding his heartfelt thanks for the faith they placed in him.
A delighted Tom Raine, the would-be jockey who returned to his studies and completes his Leaving on Wednesday of next week, quashed any doubts as to how he would find time for politics as he is due to undertake a Business Studies course in WIT next September.
“I will probably have more time than those others on the Council who are holding down jobs”, he pointed out.
His initial target as a councillor is to do all he can to help boost tourism and the jobs that industry creates in the resort.
As for longer term ambitions, he said his plan was to see how things worked out with the Town Council and then decide whether he wanted to push further into the political arena.
Blaise Hannigan, delighted to be returned as a Town Councillor and, having sought a County Council seat also, reasonably pleased with his showing in that election (478 first preferences), said he had nevertheless learned some lessons.
Among them were that he should stop hiding his light behind a bushel and highlight through the media his work for the electorate and his achievements, like others were doing.
As for thoughts of what would have happened if he ran under the FF banner, he said he did not even want to talk about that. “Good luck to anyone involved with the party but from here on in I’m an Independent and that’s the way I’ll stay”, he promised.
New councillor Pat Finnerty gave a similar undertaking and said he hoped to build on the base he had created to have another crack at the County Council next time around (he polled 291 first preferences in his quest for a county seat). But he was thrilled to have been elected a Town Councillor.
Joe O’Shea, as a councillor, aims to push for a fairer deal for Tramore. “I feel we are not getting our share from Dungarvan and as a consequence the resort is run-down and needs a facelift”, he said.
He was sorry his party colleague Gina Hutchinson Kelly was not accompanying him onto the Council and said her transfers played a major part in his election.
Gina herself was upbeat, although disappointed. Only 37, she said she was already thinking in terms of standing again in five years time. Although her defeat was “harsh” she didn’t take it personally, convinced that her lack of broad support reflected a backlash against Fianna Fail rather than anything else.
There was a big crowd in the town’s Civic Offices throughout Saturday until the final result was announced around 8 pm. The count was run in typically efficient, orderly and unfussy fashion by Town Clerk John O’Sullivan.
The turnout, for the record, was 57 pc.