CASTLEBAR — At first it was supposed to be around 5pm, then 6pm, then “maybe another half hour.” But it was only at 8.45pm on Saturday, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny edged through a throng of paparazzi and well-wishers, that Mayo’s first count showed the Fine Gael leader to have crossed the 12,730 quota.
A lot of impatient pacing in a county that knows all about long waits – particularly in football. And even the so-called “short campaign” was a long wait, according to Michael Ring, the junior minister for tourism and sport and another Mayo Fine Gael seat winner.
“We were campaigning since last summer and we thought we would have a November election” said Ring, who mentioned the word “tired” several times in a short interview.
Unlike on Sunday when Ring was hoisted onto supporters’ shoulders after taking Mayo’s second seat, Kenny, weighed down by other concerns, kept his feet on the ground. Or maybe even the party die-hards were too tired waiting to shoulder the burden.
“This is a disappointing say for our party and a particularly disappointing say for those who lost their seats,” was Kenny’s first comment to the encroaching press pack.
“Democracy is merciless when it kicks in,” Kenny lamented, as early tallies showed that Fine Gael could lose around 20 seats from its 2011 high.
But even if Fine Gael had suffered a damaging election result nationally, Kenny’s home county Mayo was bucking that trend. Fine Gael’s 51% first preference votes in Kenny’s backyard looks to be around double the national level – though down on the 2011 Mayo landslide when Fine Gael took 4 seats and 65% of constituency first preferences.
But like elsewhere in the country, Fianna Fáil was the main beneficiary of the smaller Fine Gael slump in Mayo. As expected, Dara Calleary retained his seat from his Ballina base, while Castlebar’s Lisa Chambers edged the 4th and final seat from Fine Gael incumbent Michelle Mulherin.
No Sinn Féin seat for Rose Conway Walsh, who was expected to challenge, while smaller parties and independents were also-rans.
Michael Farrington, a Renua candidate who bowed out on 2.5% of first preferences, agreed that Mayo is a tough battleground for challengers from outside the big 2 parties – something he put down partly to Mayo lacking a decisive youth vote due to migration to other parts of Ireland or abroad for work.
“It is the 6th most deprived constituency in the country, our people are decimated,” Farrington said.
Evoking deprivation could make Farrington one of the “whingers” slammed by Kenny in a speech made in Castlebar less than a week before the vote.
Did those comments hand the final Mayo seat to Fianna Fáil?
“People pass judgements on 5 years of lack of delivery. We’re democrats, we have to take criticism,” said Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary, who would not be drawn on whether he would back a grand coalition that could put Kenny back in office as Taoiseach.Show