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Monday, 10th June 2024

Cheers, and a few tears, as Local Election results announced

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Newly elected Sinn Féin Councillor Eric Donovan receives the applause of his party colleagues his wife Laura, baby daughter Saoirse and son Troy. Photos Andy Spearman.

By Andy Spearman

One of the biggest social gathering to take place in County Louth for years happened in Dundalk over the weekend with the full range of human emotions being played out. For some it was a joyful celebration of the realisation of their dreams and hard work coming to fruition but for others it was more like a wake with their dreams for the future dashed.

The election count was a nerve tingling and protracted occasion and, although everyone in the large crowd present knew that once the ballots are cast there is nothing they can do to change the outcome, there was tension in the air and much biting of nails and crossing of fingers leading ultimately to loud cheers and some quiet tears also.

Labour had a good election with Michelle Hall, pictured here with Labour TD Ged Nash and Ardee candidate Kate Karpenko, topping the poll in the Rural LEA and Pio Smith doing the same in the Urban area.

Saturday was long and tiring and, following an early morning start in the count centre, it was 11.30 pm before the results of the first count were announced with Labour’s Michelle Hall exceeding the quota and safely elected in the Drogheda Rural Electoral Area. 

There are some complaints about how long the process was taking but at the same time, everyone present knew that it is really important that everything is done in an open and above board fashion and every detail is checked and rechecked because Democracy is a very precious thing thatt needs protecting from those who would damage it.

A big thumbs up from Independent Kevin Callan, pictured with his wife Ruth, who was the third candidate to be elcted in the Drogheda Urban area.

Witnessing the count is a nervous time for all the candidates and they must all be commended for putting themselves forward for what they hope is the good of the local community and the final outcome has to be respected.

While it is a time of joy and celebration for successful candidates, for those who have put their all into their various campaigns but have not managed to garner enough votes the feeling of rejection must be difficult to take.

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne who retained her seat and was the second candidate to be elected in Drogheda Urban, pictured with her partner Mattie Casey.

Frank Godfrey exited the fray in Drogheda Rural after the sixth count but, accepting defeat gracefully, he reminded everyone that would lend him an ear that, back in the heady days of the 1970’s, he topped the poll in all three of the wards in Drogheda.

“If I’m still alive at the next election I’ll be back” he promised, giving us his famous wave but it was evident from the body language that he was bitterly disappointed. It can be a cruel business this politics.

Tally men Donnchada Mac Raghnaill and his son Fiachra keeping an eye on the numbers at the count in Dundalk.

One group of people for whom every election count is a real treat are the number crunchers and it was great to see the king of the tally men, Donnchada Mac Raghnaill who has tallied the votes at every election in living memory there keeping an eye on proceedings while his son Fiacra carried on the tradition of crunching the numbers and making sense of the ebb and flow of votes and transfers which is a mystery to us mere mortals.

Independent candidate Maeve Yore is the centre of attention from the media just after her poll topping performance in Ardee was announced.

One of the biggest cheers of the day went up for independent candidate Maeve Yore when she was elected on the first count in Dundalk South with a whopping 2,150 first preference votes which is 637 above the quota. There was an immediate media scrum as she celebrated her re-election with her husband Martin, daughter Rachael and son David.

Election announcements were coming more frequently now as the number of candidates still standing got smaller and smaller. First time Fine Gael candidate Ann Marie Ford, the Principal of Scoil Naomh Colmcille in Tullydonnell, Togher, was elected on the seventh count in Drogheda Rural and once again the cheers rattled the rafters.

Two succesful first timers for Fine Gael, Ejiro O'Hare Stratton who was elected in Drogheda Urban and Anne-Marie Ford who took a seat in the Rural area, with Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

By 6.30 pm on Sunday people who had been standing behind the barriers for two very long days waiting patiently for some news began to wilt as they were getting really, really tired. Not a sign of a seat anywhere though.

The run up to this election was marred by candidates from far-right parties attempting to whip up anti-immigrant hateful rhetoric which unfortunately resulted in vile intimidation and threats for other candidates on social media. They tried to carry it on during the count but they were ignored. Thankfully the electorate didn’t go for their narrow-minded, bigoted talk either and voted them out of the running.

Independent Councillor Paddy McQuillan who retained his seat in Drogheda Urban pictured at the count with his wife Deirdre.

Congratulations to all the winners and commiserations to all of the candidates who put their names forward but failed to attract enough votes, congratulations also the 48% of people in Louth who were entitles to vote and did so. You have played a big role on protecting democracy.

Shame on those who decided not to vote though. Remember, if you didn't use your right to vote, a right that was hard fought for in the past, you really don't deserve the right to criticise the performance of the incoming public representatives.

No doubt though the so-called social media will be as rife with negativity and insulting attacks as ever. Unlike the make up of local councils, some things never change.

A delighted Declan Power with his wife Ciara, daughter Éabha and son Senan after being elected in Drogheda Rural. Photo: Ken Finegan.

The successful candidates in the Drogheda Urban LEA were:

  • Pio Smith - The Labour Party
  • Joanna Byrne - Sinn Féin
  • Kevin Callan - Non-Party
  • Paddy McQuillan - Non-Party
  • James Byrne - Fianna Fáil
  • Ejiro O'Hare Stratton - Fine Gael

Cllr. James Byrne with his family after being re-elected at the count held in County Hall.

The incoming Councillors in the Drogheda Rural Electoral Area are:

  • Michelle Hall - The Labour Party
  • Anne-Marie Ford - Fine Gael
  • Declan Power - Non-Party
  • Eric Donavan - Sinn Fein.
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