‘Historic win for Sinn Féin as Fianna Fail fails to take a seat’
There was a significant boundary change in this constituency since the last election. It lost the areas of: Ballynaglogh, Glenville, Carrig, Watergrasshill, Kildinan, Ballynamona and Rahan. This meant that a population of 4,255 was transferred to Cork North Central.
Since Ned O’Keeffe joined the Fianna Fail ticket here in November 1982 this had been a bastion for the party, with O’Keeffe and Michael Ahern taking two of the four seats at every election up to 2007, albeit with just the occasional hint of a certain creative tension between the two of them. In 2011 this was yet another of the constituencies where Fianna Fail plunged from 2 seats to none. O’Keeffe senior retired and was succeeded on the ticket by his son Kevin, but many observers felt that Fianna Fail’s only hope of retaining one seat would have been to run just one candidate, and so it proved; Ahern was eliminated on the fourth count, and O’Keeffe finished 600 votes short of a seat.
Fine Gael was always going to win two seats; the only question was which of David Stanton’s two running mates would accompany him to Leinster House. This race was won by Mallow-based councillor Tom Barry, who had a lead of almost 1,000 votes over Pa O’Driscoll at the decisive stage.
That left two seats for the taking for Labour, if the party managed its votes properly. However, it spectacularly failed to do this, Seán Sherlock running over 6,000 ahead of his running mate, former TD John Mulvihill. If just 500 of Sherlock’s voters had switched to Cobh-based Mulvihill, Labour would have taken two seats here. Instead, Mulvihill was eliminated on the 7th count, and his transfers enabled Sinn Féin’s Sandra McLellan from Youghal to overhaul Kevin O’Keeffe and win Sinn Féin’s first seat in this constituency, becoming the only opposition TD in Cork East.