FINE Gael’s legendary vote management system has slipped, and slipped badly, for the second time.
In the local elections in 2014, Fine Gael got their numbers badly wrong, but that could be excused by the fact that they had six candidates on the ticket.
In the last two general elections, Fine Gael – despite a 13% variable – managed to return two TDs. In 2007, 36% of the vote returned Paddy Sheehan in the western side of the constituency, and Jim O’Keeffe in the east.
With 49% of the vote in 2011, two new Fine Gael TDs, Noel Harrington – the first ever TD in the Beara Peninsula – held the west and Jim Daly took the east.
When the votes were counted on Saturday, the two sitting TDs polled 31.9% of the vote, which fell far short of the anticipated 18,000 first preference votes, or 45%, that the party in Cork South West had been banking on – a figure that they believed might have even brought Labour’s Michael McCarthy over the line on transfers.
The result in Cork South West is being heralded as the end of an era in national media circles – many commentators are saying it is the end of Cork South West’s reputation as being the most traditional, the most secure, constituency in the country. To a large degree they are right because Cork South West, which used to be immune to national trends, is bang on-trend in this election.
On this occasion, it has returned just one Fine Gael TD – Jim Daly – who had been tipped to top the poll, but ended up taking the third seat on the fifth count without having reached the quota.
Fine Gael’s other sitting TD, Noel Harrington, lost out to Michael Collins, an independent councillor, who from his home base in Schull will now be regarded as the constituents’ voice in the west.
Jim Daly told The Southern Star he was delighted to have retained his seat: ‘Everybody told me from the first day I got elected to Dáil Éireann that the most difficult election you will ever fight is your second election.
‘Coming out of a Government that was very traumatic and very difficult, it was always going to be an uphill battle and despite the many claims of a safe seat, I never believed any of that.
‘I always knew it would be a tough, challenging election, so I am thrilled to have regained the trust of the people of West Cork,’ said the deputy, ‘and I am really looking forward to serving them to the utmost of my ability, as I did for the past five years, for how ever many years remain of this term after this election.’