Higgins set to be re-elected

October 27th, 2018 1:11 PM

By Jackie Keogh

UILLINN West Cork Arts Centre pic1.jpg

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There were unprecedented scenes at Clonakilty Community Centre on Saturday morning with just one tallyman in attendance at the Cork South West presidential election count.
The situation in Clonakilty was largely representative of other rural counts throughout the country as the unexciting election campaign was considered to be ‘over’ at 10pm on Friday, October 26th when the exit polls showed the incumbent, Michael D Higgins, as the clear winner with 58% of the first preference votes.
With the sorting of the 130 ballot boxes – plus the postal vote box – taking until after 12 noon to check, the official count in Cork South West is not likely to be announced until 3 or 4pm today (Saturday, October 27).
The lone tallyman confirmed that the random selection of boxes is fairly consistent with the national trend. However, a microscopic selection of just a few areas – including Kinsale, Drimoleague, Durrus and Castletownbere – seem slightly skewed with Michael D Higgins on 52.7%; Peter Casey on 20.4%; Liadh Ni Riada on 9.5%; Sean Gallagher on 7.9%; Joan Freeman at 4.9% and Gavin Duffy on 4.7%.
In Durrus, for example, Peter Casey, was edging close to the 30% mark with Michael D Higgins at 48.5% - which is clearly at variance with the national trend.
The 48% turnout in Cork South West was another unprecedented low. The drop in the turnout is just one of the trends emerging from this election.
Cork South West was always noted for having an above average voting public. In the last presidential election in 2011, for example, the national turnout was 56% but Cork South West went the extra mile and make it to the 60% mark.
On the last occasion, there were 11 candidates seeking election to the highest office in the land and some of the surprising figures on that occasion showed voters in Cork South West putting Sean Gallagher with 12,449 votes ahead of Michael D Higgins on 12,047 votes.
Another interesting trend in this election is the huge jump of Peter Casey, who had been considered a rank outsider, but went from just 1% in the pre-election polls to 21% in the exit poll.
Peter Casey has denied that his remarks about the travelling community were a Trump-like tactic and a shift to what has been described as ‘American-style politics and negative campaigning.’  
He claimed his comments were not racist and that the time had come for straight-talking about housing and other such issues in Irish politics.
It now seems that Peter Casey is likely to have amassed as many votes as the four remaining candidates – namely Munster MEP Liadh Ni Riada, Joan Freeman, Sean Gallaher and Gavin Duffy – and that he will far exceed the 12.5% threshold needed to have his election expenses - up to a limit of €200,000 - paid by the State.
With Sinn Féin having effectively forced this presidential election on the voting public, it was assumed that Liadh Ni Riada would have polled better but it still too early to tell if the Munster MEP can save her deposit.
The Southern Star will be positing further updates on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day.

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