‘Fine Gael emerges as the dominant party to take three seats’
There were no boundary change here since 2007 but with 24 candidates, the most in the country, this was always likely to be a long count. So it was, with demands for recounts protracting matters further. As well as the five candidates elected, the constituency can claim a sixth TD, as Pat Deering, the Fine Gael TD for Carlow–Kilkenny, lives in the area of east Carlow that, to the resentment of its inhabitants, makes up part of the Wicklow constituency.
Fine Gael emerged as the dominant party, winning close to 40 per cent of the votes and three of the five seats. In 2002 it had been down to 16 per cent and one seat, so this represented very impressive growth. Andrew Doyle, first elected in 2007, headed the poll, Billy Timmins was second home, and yet another case of good Fine Gael vote management meant that the youthful newcomer Simon Harris came in third.
Labour suffered from the retirement of former deputy leader Liz McManus. The party’s vote scarcely rose compared with 2007, and its three candidates made heavy weather of holding the seat in a constituency where in 2002, when the national conditions were much less favourable, it had come within 20 votes of taking two seats. Despite receiving fewer than half of running mate Tom Fortune’s transfers on the sixteenth count, Anne Ferris took the fourth seat quite securely.
Fianna Fail had won 2 seats in 2007, but one of these disappeared quite quickly when Joe Behan left the party in October 2008. He stood now as an independent but was never in the race. Fianna Fail ran two candidates, outgoing TD and junior minister Dick Roche being joined on the ticket by Councillor Pat Fitzgerald from Arklow. Although Roche led on first preferences, Fitzgerald overhauled him. The elimination on the fourteenth count of Roche, whose combative style as a politician was not to everyone’s liking, produced wild applause among supporters of other parties in the counting centre.
With only 11 per cent of the votes Fianna Fail was well short of a seat, and the fifth seat lay between Sinn Fein’s John Brady and independent Stephen Donnelly. Brady led on first preferences, but Donnelly, who used his media appearances impressively during the campaign, fared better on transfers and took the last seat by just over 100 votes.