OUTGOING Fine Gael TD and Tánaiste Simon Coveney had to wait until the eighth and final count in Cork South Central (CSC) to be re-elected.
He picked up 9,327 first preferences and got over the line, thanks to 2,323 transfers, mainly from his running mate Jerry Buttimer.
Voters in CSC returned Sinn Fein’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire with a poll-topping performance, FF leader Micheál Martin in the sixth count and party finance spokesman Michael McGrath and Simon Coveney in the eighth count.
Effectively, there was no change in personnel, but a reversal in order compared to 2016. Speaking at the count centre in Nemo, the Fianna Fáil leader refused to be drawn on the possibility that either party would enter into coalition with Sinn Fein, though he did stress all political parties would have to listen to what the electorate have said.
‘We will listen – the people have spoken … I am making the point that there is considerable incompatibility in the policy platforms of ourselves and Sinn Féin and we have to put that marker down … our policies and our principles haven’t changed overnight, or in 24 hours,’ he said.
The Tanaiste, also speaking in Nemo, said the verdict of voters was ‘harsh’ and a result of the public being ‘impatient’ for more housing and a better health service.
He said the election campaign got away from them in the first couple of weeks and it was ‘everyone against the government party.’
He acknowledged the party didn’t connect with the electorate in a way they wanted to, and added: ‘I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here – this was a bad election for Fine Gael. We’ll recover from it, learn from it, listen to what people have had to say and bounce back.’
The Fine Gael vote was down almost 5% (4.6%) on 2016 in Cork South Central, while the Fianna Fáil vote was down even more – at just over 6%. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin saw a massive 12% jump in their support, with the Greens also up – by 5.7%.