LABOUR’S John Whelan trumped Fianna Fail’s long serving Donie Cassidy to become Laois-Offaly’s newest Seanad member last week. Senator Whelan was elected on the Labour panel following a tight contest which eventually saw him beating Cassidy by 87,410 to 76,540.
Senator Whelan will be Laois/Offaly’s only representative in the Seanad with all other attempts proving unsuccessful.
Kinnitty’s John Clendennen who ran on the Industrial and Commercial panel received 19,000 first preference votes and was eliminated after the 12th count.
Fine Gael’s Liam Quinn received 23,000 first preference votes but was eliminated after the 3rd count on the Cultural and Educational Panel. His party colleague Molly Buckley also received 23,000 first preference votes on the Administrative panel, but she was eliminated after the 6th count. Also Edenderry’s Nichola Quinn failed to secure a seat, attaining 27,000 first preference votes and she was eliminated after the fourth count.
Ballycumber man Seamus Boland received 30,000 first preference votes on the Administrative Panel, but was eliminated after the eight count.
Outgoing Seanad Cathaoirleach, Banagher’s Pay Moylan decided not to stand in the elections.
Meanwhile in Laois, Fine Gael’s Martin Phelan was unsuccessful on the Agricultural panel, with 26,000 first preference votes, which saw him eliminated after the 17th count.
Cllr Molly Buckley said she was not disappointed not to get a seat as with something like this it’s a case of “you either win or lose.”
“I’m fine about it. I did a very good campaign and I couldn’t have done any more. There were a lot a candidates and a lot of competition,” said Cllr Buckley. She said going into the race she knew it would be a “lottery” and said she was “glad I did it.”
Senator Whelan was one of three candidates on the Labour panel among a field of 21 candidates overall, vying for 11 Seanad seats. He received 66 first preferences (enumerates as 66,000 on Seanad counts) leaving him in fourth place on first preferences. The marathon count concluded in the small hours of last Thursday morning.
He was elected on the 17th count. “I attracted transfers from right across the board. Transfers on the ninth and eleventh count proved invaluable. On paper it did not look good early on. It was a very crowded field and there were many experienced and long serving Fine Gael and Fianna Fail people involved.
“On John Hanafin’s elimination I received two transfers and on Geraldine Feeney’s on the 17th I got one, which effectively secured the seat. I received very strong support in Laois-Offaly. Cllrs took the view that Laois-Offaly needed a voice in the Seanad, and I am very grateful for that.”
Senator Whelan’s road to the Seanad followed a strong General Election showing, Labour’s best in the constituency for many years. “It was never my intention to contest the Seanad. In fact, I was initially sceptical about it. However, after achieving a final tally of 9,026 votes in the general election I did feel that it would be remiss of me to walk away and leave it there. It would amount to a betrayal of all the people who voted, and for those who canvassed for me.
“I felt honour bound to run, after my strong platform and respectful mandate coming out of the general election. Plus, we had such a good general election, that the Party wanted me to run. On consideration it was the right thing to do.
“Getting the nomination was a crucial endorsement. Fifteen Labour candidates ultimately contested the Seanad election, eight came from outside the party. All seven nominees were elected.”
“On the canvass we were very courteously received and people acknowledged what we had achieved in a short space of time. I reproduced the general election count on the canvass card which was a huge help. The Naked Election documentary (which aired on RTE soon after the election) was also a great calling card.”