While Fine Gael is coming to terms with a poor election result, the party in Carlow-Kilkenny bucked the national trend by holding on to its two seats at Saturday's count in dramatic circumstances.
Sitting Fine Gael TD, Pat Deering (Carlow) had been written off by all the political pundits but as the day wore on it looked barely possible that he might bridge the substantial gap of around 2,000 votes between himself and Jennifer Murnane-O'Connor (FF), also from Carlow. Ultimately it was the distribution of Fine Gael's Cllr David Fitzgerald's votes that decided the issue.
It gave Deputy John Paul Phelan a surplus of 2,531 votes which transferred extremely strongly to Deering giving him, the final seat Fitzgerald's transfer rate to his two other FG colleagues, Deering and Deputy John Paul Phelan was an incredible 80%.
So even though the party was 13 percentage points behind Fianna Fail (27% v 40%)in the overall vote, it ended up with the same number of seats.
This was down to vote management and Deputy John Paul Phelan played a huge part in the electoral success by agreeing to a tight vote management system.
David Fitzgerald was very magnanimous in defeat and said that the party had suffered and that he and other candidates around the country had been affected.
He thanked everyone in his campaign and said he had done his best and that it wasn't to be this time around.
Deputy John Paul Phelan, while relieved to be re-elected was skeptical of the motives of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and others after the election. He said that the electorate had rejected Fine Gael's plan and that it was now up to the other parties to form a new government.
“We can't make it easy for them, we were all elected with the possibility of governing and they must face up to their responsibilities rather than remaining on the fence, snipping at Fine Gael,” he said.
He said Fine Gael had a lot of soul searching to do and that it had been a difficult election.
He said he was saddened that David Fitzgerald didn't get in and thanked him for his excellent campaign.
He said he was also sorry for Labour Minister for Rural Affairs, Ann Phelan who lost her seat.
“She got a lot of work done in the short time she was a minister and was very pleasant to work with and she will be missed,” John Paul said.
He also had sharp words for those in Waterford who wanted to “landgrab” 7,000 acres and 7,000 people from south Kilkenny.
He said the matter should be “consigned to history” and should never again be raised.
“The Commission hasn’t yet delivered its report so I can’t pre-empt its precise findings or recommendations.
“But what I can say for certain is that, even if it does recommend a boundary shift, and I really can’t see that happening, it would be fought tooth and nail and I couldn’t see it getting through the new Dáil.
“The electorate of Waterford has spoken. It is clear from the result there that there isn’t an appetite in Waterford either for a boundary change.
“The Boundary Commission meets with its sub-committee on Friday week and I think, we could see an extension to the time it needs to deliver its report. The original deadline was March 31, but with 20,100 submissions made, it has some task ahead.
“What I do think will happen is that the Commission will suggest some sort of cooperative, statutory committee be formed and that both counties work together for the betterment of this disputed area.
“This is the third time that an official boundary review was mooted. Over 20,00 submissions were made on the issue, 3,100 more than when the change was last proposed back in 2005 and substantially more than when the first official review attempt was made back in 1999.
“It is time now for relations to be rebuilt on what has been a very factious and divisive issue, one that has pitched neighbouring counties against one another. I’m hopeful that the outcome will be a cooperative body.
“There truly was never an appetite from the people of either county for a boundary shift which would have changed the identities of 5,000 people with the stroke of a pen,” he said.