‘Massive swing to the left in Cork North-Central’
The redrawing of the boundaries here saw a population of 8,559 transferred from Cork East and Cork North West into this constituency. It meant that Cork North Central was extended further northwards and westwards into the rural areas and the commuter towns north of Cork City.
Another success for Sinn Féin, as Jonathan O’Brien headed the poll and reached the quota seven counts later. He received two and a half thousand transfers when the Socialist Party’s Mick Barry was eliminated on the eighth count. Barry significantly improved his own vote over 2007, though without coming close to taking the seat that one opinion poll had seemed to promise.
Fianna Fail was very satisfied with its performance. Noel O’Flynn had stood down at the behest of party leader Micheál Martin, so as to maximise the chances that Billy Kelleher, as Fianna Fail’s sole candidate, would be re-elected. Given how well this strategy worked here, Martin may wish he had been firmer with some other recalcitrant incumbents. The Fianna Fail vote dropped from 36% to 15%, but Kelleher just managed to keep his nose ahead of the two Fine Gael candidates to take the third seat. Kelleher was aided by the expansion of the constituency to include some rural areas from Cork East and Cork North West into this predominantly urban constituency.
Both government parties had entertained hopes of taking two seats but had to settle for one. Labour became the strongest party, with 26 per cent of the votes. Its votes were shared fairly evenly between incumbent Kathleen Lynch and running mate John Gilroy. Given that Gilroy was only 63 votes behind Fine Gael’s Dara Murphy when he was eliminated, it is possible that a more even distribution would have enabled Gilroy to reap sufficient Fine Gael transfers to take him above Billy Kelleher and into a seat.
The major increase in support for the left (Labour, Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party all making significant advances) meant that this was one of the very few constituencies in the country where Fine Gael’s support actually fell compared with 2007. No doubt the retirement of 30-year veteran Bernard Allen was a factor in this. There was a major battle between the two first-time Fine Gael candidates as to which would win the seat. Dara Murphy trailed Glanmire-based Pat Burton throughout the count, until the elimination of Labour’s Gilroy on the tenth count took him ahead of his running mate, and in the end he had a margin of nearly 300 votes to spare over Burton.