A number of retirements plus a swing against Fianna Fail resulted in big changes on Waterford County Council. Counting to determine the composition of the new 23-member council went on well into Sunday and, after over 16 hours, Fine Gael managed to hold onto its dominant 11 seats.
Labour retained the four it secured in 2004. Sinn Fein gained a seat, Fianna Fail lost two (down to four) and Joe Conway became the only Independent on the Council. A big shock was the failure of former TD Ollie Wilkinson to win a seat in the Dungarvan area and the elimination of his son and sitting councillor, Kevin, in the Lismore area.
Tramore Electoral Area: 7 Seats
Fine Gael’s Passage strongman John Carey topped the poll in this area, weighing in with a 1,113 first preferences – just seven short of the quota. The seats of his running mates Lola O’Sullivan and Ann Marie Power were also a safe bet and after a lengthy transfer process they were elected in the 9th count.
With Fianna Fail’s Dan Cowman retiring, his good friend, former councillor Geoff Power in Dunmore East (who failed to make the cut with 719 first preferences last time) was competing with Sinn Féin’s Pat Fitzgerald and this probably took its toll as Fitzgerald emerged victorious. Power’s transfers, along with those of Joe O’Shea, were crucial in Butlerstown/Kill’s Pat Daly retaining his seat.
Labour’s lone incumbent in the east Paddy O’Callaghan, who received 764 No1s five years ago, was virtually guaranteed the seat he’s held since being co-opted to the County Council and Town Commission instead of Brian O’Shea in 1993.
Independent candidate Joe Conway built significantly on his first tilt at the county elections in 2004 (from 469 No1s to 778) to take the 5th seat and Sinn Fein’s Fitzgerald joined Brendan Mansfield to bring the party’s representation on the Council to two.
Comeragh Electoral Area: 6 seats
Three Fine Gael representatives, two Fianna Fail and one Labour make up the newly-formed Comeragh Electoral Area.
Popular Leamybrien-based representative Liam Brazil improved on his massive 1,094 first preferences in Kilmacthomas in 2004, with a whopping 1,733 votes. He was elected on the first count, as was Brendan Coffey (co-opted in his brother Paudie’s election to the Seanad two years ago) and newcomer from Ballymacarbry Michael Joseph Ryan, son of legendary retiring councillor Kieran. Labour’s Ger Barron, from Kilmac, was next past the post, elected in the third count. Just three votes ultimately separated Fianna Fail’s John O’Leary and Benji Whelan and, despite a recount on Sunday morning, O’Leary, the former Waterford GAA secretary from Kilmeaden/Ballyduff Lower, eventually took the last of the six seats for this area.
Dungarvan Electoral Area: 6 seats
It was a great day for Fine Gael’s Damien Geoghegan and Pat Nugent, with both elected on the first count, practically doubling their first preferences on last time. The latter’s success, especially in the Glenbeg area, will have especially miffed the Fianna Fail camp.
Sinn Fein’s Brendan Mansfield comfortably held his seat, as did Labour’s Billy Kyne. Tom Cronin from Ardmore, whose 869 number ones last time was almost double his successful 1999 haul, made it through on transfers in the fifth count. County Mayor and Ballinacourty-based Dr Tom Higgins (FG), took the final seat.
One of the biggest surprises of the day was the defeat of former mayor Teresa Wright, Labour.
Fianna Fail were left red-faced as former TD Ollie Wilkinson, who was the county poll-topper in successive elections before surrendering his seat to his son Kevin on making it to the Dáil seven years ago, failed to make the grade. Old Parish entrant and veteran Fianna Fail activist Seamus O’Donnell, running as an Independent, held out to the bitter end but was eventually eliminated.
Lismore Electoral Area: 4 seats
Fine Gael had strong candidates in sitting councillors Nora Flynn, the Cappoquin publican and Lismore agri’ all-rounder Declan Doocey in this area but it was Fianna Fail’s James Tobin who topped the poll with 1,023 votes.
All three Fine Gael candidates polled well, with newcomer Liam Curran of Clashmore actually sitting more than 50 votes ahead of Doocey after the first count. It was a case of third time lucky for Labour’s John Pratt, a factory worker from Tallow, who failed to make the cut in 2004 and 1999 but got in on the fourth count on this occasion. Flynn and Doocey took the remaining seats for Fine Gael, much to the disappointment of outgoing Fianna Failer Kevin Wilkinson, son of Ollie.