County Kildare has three new TDs this Sunday morning.
Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon topped the polls in Kildare South. His party colleague Tony Lawlor took a seat in Kildare North, as did Independent Catherine Murphy - who is in fact returning to Dail Eireann after she lost her seat in the 2007 election.
But General Election 2011 was a disaster for Fianna Fail, whose vote collapsed completely in Kildare North. Former Junior Minister Aine Brady, of the Fianna Fail Kitt family, and Michael Fitzpatrick, both lost their seats.
In Kildare South, Sean Power’s 22 year old Dail career came to an end as he crashed out ahead of party colleague Sean O Fearghail. The latter just scraped in after a tense late night battle at the count centre in Punchestown with first-time runner, Newbridge Mayor and Independent Paddy Kennedy.
Martin Heydon took an early lead in South Kildare, and was effectively home and dry by 11am on Saturday morning, when early tally figures indicated he had comfortably passed the quota.
In fact Heydon, and Jack Wall, both exceeded the quota and were returned on the first count for Kildare South shortly after 4pm on Saturday. But the battle for the final seat in Kildare South was to last until past 11pm.
It was nearly 5.30pm before the first result came in in Kildare North as Bernard Durkan, Fine Gael, retained his seat on the second count. The Fianna Fail vote was already looking disastrous at that stage, with outgoing minister Aine Brady lying in sixth and Michael Fitzpatrick well down the running, being outpolled by Sinn Fein candidate Martin Kelly.
It was around tea-time that it became evident in Kildare South that Independent Paddy Kennedy was picking up transfers from everywhere, as both the smaller candidates were eliminated and Martin Heydon’s and Jack Wall’s surplus was distributed.
Emmet Stagg was returned on the third count in Kildare North shortly after 6pm, with eliminated TD Michael Fitzpatrick’s transfers bringing him home.
Sean Power effectively conceded defeat in Kildare South half an hour later, telling the Leinster Leader that he didn’t expect to retain his seat.
It was 8.40pm before the counts finished in Kildare North. Catherine Murphy, Independent, took the third seat and Anthony Lawlor, Fine Gael, took the fourth seat in the fifth count.
But as the battle for the final seat in Kildare South dragged on, the atmosphere grew tense around Punchestown. Independent Kennedy was cutting the Fianna Fail men’s lead as he picked up the transfers from Vivian Cummins of the Green Party, Independent Cliff Reid and Sinn Fein’s Jason Turner.
On the fifth count he leapfrogged Sean Power with the distribution of fellow independent Cliff Reid’s votes and overtook O Fearghail himself by over 1,300 ballots once Sinn Fein’s Jason Turner’s votes had been redistributed. But after Power fell at the sixth fence, it emerged that what remained of the Fianna Fail core vote had held loyal to both candidates in Kildare South. O Fearghail was able to rein Kennedy back in and win by the nose.
Afterwards, defeated veteran Sean Power was gracious in defeat. He acknowledged the achievement of young Fine Gael poll-topper Martin Heydon, noting that the first day a candidate was elected was very special. Heydon himself said he was “honoured, thrilled and humbled” by the vote, and said it was his intention “not to let anyone in Kildare South down”.
For a full, ‘as it happened’ account of the results of General Election 2011 in Kildare North and Kildare South, including reaction and interviews with candidates and comments from the public, read the Leinster Leader’s General Election LIVE! blog at http://www.leinsterleader.ie/news/general-election-2011/general-election-live (or click on our ‘News’ tab above and go to ‘General Election LIVE’)
For the best coverage, results and analysis, read this Wednesday’s Leinster Leader.