And it gave us some idea of how big Mary Butler’s support was, with former City & County Mayor James Tobin declaring: “We drove up boreens in the west of the county, where we were told few canvassers had ever been before.”
Fianna Fáil’s eight-strong compliment of Councillors were fully behind Deputy Butler throughout the campaign and almost wore out as much shoe leather as Mary and her family did.
A strong marketing campaign clearly did the trick, as Deputy Butler outperformed the 8,000 first preference tally that FF had predicted she’d win prior to voting day.
Micheál Martin’s sterling support for his Waterford candidate, coupled with his own strong performance during the campaign, clearly did the trick, Mary Butler added.
Advertising also worked, given that Deputy Butler had been a regular advertiser with The Munster Express and also undertook a major poster campaign throughout Waterford, all of which she believed drove her candidacy in the right direction.
The scale of Fianna Fáil’s success was not predicted by anyone, given that as recently as six weeks ago, we were informed, a crisis meeting was held, at which all the party’s local Councillors attended. In the wake of that meeting, the party’s Councillors went into overdrive on the canvass and certainly played their part in helping Mary Butler to record such a spectacular success.
“It wasn’t easy selling the party message in some estates,” said Cllr Jason Murphy. “A lot of people are still hurting, but I have to say, in general, we were well received in the East Waterford area, and that bore itself out over the course of the count.”
Other party people said it was an eye opener to see how some people were faring and life had been getting difficult.
Health was a huge issue on the doorsteps, as Mary Butler told this newspaper in the build-up to last Friday’s election, with many talking about the struggle of getting an appointments with a consultant.
The 24/7 cardiac care issue at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) was one which Mary Butler brought up repeatedly during the campaign. That Leo Varadkar didn’t get this matter across the line certainly damaged the Fine Gael vote, much to the undoubted frustration of Paudie Coffey.
Sinn Fein, as expected, had a large contingent of Councillors and party supporters present to celebrate with David Cullinane as he won election. Among them were Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who came to wish the newly elected TD (boosted by Una Dunphy’s transfers – both were on the Right2Change ticket) well on his special day.
John Halligan (Independent Alliance) was next in line for election, as some early afternoon concerns dissipated and he proved transfer friendly. With family and friends out in great numbers, Deputy Halligan’s delight with re-election was there for all to see, and he was joined by some Independent Councillors who are believed to be interested in running for the Seanad, including Joe Conway and Joe Kelly.
Seanad leader Maurice Cummins stated that Fine Gael’s administration will, as the law dictates, continue until there is an alternative formed, with outgoing ministers staying in place until a new government ids formed.
There was sympathy for the loss of Paudie Coffey’s seat, with the Portlaw-based Minister of State undoubtedly the most disappointed candidate at the Count Centre. “I’d worked hard, I don’t feel I could have done any more, but politics, which can be tremendously rewarding, can also be cruel,” he told me.
One suspects he would be a dead cert if he opted to put forward his candidacy for the Seanad. He had certainly grown as a Minister of State and had risen to the task, working effectively with his fellow TDs, and Senator Cullinane for that matter, in fighting for Waterford. While the national swing against Fine Gael hit him in the end, Paudie Coffey is young and can make a return should he choose such a path.
His re-elected party colleague John Deasy, who lost over 3,000 first preferences from his 2011 result, has expressed an interest in the Ceann Comhairle’s job, which will be decided by secret ballot in due course.
According to FF Councillor Eddie Mulligan, Deputy Deasy’s declaration of interest in the Dáil’s Chairmanship had actually boosted Fianna Fáil’s vote, as had FG’s stance on Irish Water.
Labour’s team were in philosophical mood in the wake of Ciara Conway’s defeat. We spoke to former TD Brian O’Shea and ex-Mayor Jack Walsh, who said that there is little reward for taking tough decisions in Government.
As it was in 1997, when Brian O’Shea was an outgoing Minister of State in the wake of the 1992 ‘Spring Tide’, Labour were hit hard after their term in office. “Putting the country first can be a handicap,” he admitted.
Green Party candidate Grace O’Sullivan and her team seemed happy with her performance on a small budget.
“I had a tiny team and a tiny budget so it was a case of making the most of the little I had,” she said. While the bigger parties seemed to have unlimited poster budgets for example, I scraped together enough money to buy 70 election posters for the General Election.
“I managed to recycle a number of the posters from the European campaign too, which was great but involved a bit of hard work. Many of those posters had gone on to be recycled. Some of them were made into hen sheds, so you can imagine the task in hand. I had to roll up the sleeves and, with the help of a few young volunteers, get scrubbing!”
Well done to returning officer Niall Rooney for running such a smooth operation.