‘Good vote management wins Fine Gael two seats’
Dún Laoghaire lost territory containing around 12,000 people, mainly in Cabinteely and Foxrock, to Dublin South, and was reduced from a five-seater to a four-seater, making it more competitive than ever, especially as all five incumbents stood for re-election. Only two of them made it back to Leinster House. The smiles were on the faces of Fine Gael and the ULA, while Fianna Fail and, surprisingly, Labour were not so happy.
For Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire was traditionally a happy hunting ground. The party took three seats out of five here in November 1982, but by 2002 it had lost them all. The rebuilding was spectacularly successful; Seán Barrett returned to the Dáil in 2007, and in 2011 he was joined by new TD Mary Mitchell-O’Connor. The party won a less than overwhelming 35 per cent of the votes, but good vote management turned this comfortably into two seats.
Labour was also hoping for two seats, and party leader Éamon Gilmore was joined on the ticket by Senator Ivana Bacik, who had done well in two previous electoral outings without being successful in either. With good vote management Labour would have been sure of two seats. Instead, Gilmore got almost twice as many first preferences as Bacik; the margin between the two, over 5,000 votes, proved costly when Bacik was eliminated on the tenth count, because if just 148 of Gilmore’s first preferences had been switched to Bacik, she would have taken a seat.
Instead, her elimination carried Richard Boyd Barrett of People before Profit into a seat. Boyd Barrett had come close in 2007 when Dún Laoghaire had been a five-seater, and now overcame the tougher challenge of getting elected in a four-seater.
The game of chicken played in the months before the election by the two Fianna Fail candidates, Barry Andrews and Mary Hanafin, both of them ministers, had fascinated the nation and appalled party headquarters. Despite hints and entreaties, neither would move to the emptier territory of Dublin South, and, inevitably, both lost their seats. To complete the rout of the outgoing government, Green TD and junior minister Ciarán Cuffe barely reached 2,000 votes and did not even qualify for reimbursement of his expenses.