SEAN Gallagher’s success in Laois/Offaly was being viewed by many at the Tullamore count centre as a sign of the continued strength of Fianna Fáil in the constituency.
Despite a questionable performance on RTE’s Frontline presidential debate, Mr Gallagher still maintained a convincing lead in the constituency only losing out to Michael D Higgins on the fourth count (26,606 to 27,821).
Michael D will be inaugurated as the country’s 9th President in Dublin Castle on Friday week, November 11.
The Cavan businessman and Dragons Den star secured 22,115 first preference votes, well ahead of the president elect, Michael D Higgins, who received 18,686 of first preference votes from a total valid poll of 58,848 for Laois/Offaly.
However, many feel the Independent candidate would have secured the presidency had Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness not raised issues about Fianna Fail donations on the Frontline debate.
Postal votes cast in Laois/Offaly prior to the debate give an indication of the extent of the lead enjoyed by Mr Gallagher in the run up to polling day.
Mr Gallagher got 206 first preference postal votes, well ahead of his nearest rival Michael D Higgins, who received less then half that number with just 102 first preference votes.
Labour Senator John Whelan claimed Sean Gallagher’s strong polling in Laois/Offaly was a direct reflection of his Fianna Fail background and the strength of the party in the constituency.
As early tallies at the Laois/Offaly count centre in Tullamore began to show Mr Gallagher topping the poll ahead of Labour’s Michael D Higgins in both Laois and Offaly, Senator Whelan was quick to point to the candidate’s FF background.
Labelling the businessman “a de-facto” Fianna Fail candidate, Senator Whelan claimed his lead in the tallies were indicative of his FF background.
“It does clearly show that there is still a strong FF organisation and strong FF support here in Laois/Offaly as is clearly manifest by the fact that they have no TDs in all of Dublin and two TDs here in Laois/Offaly. By the same token I received only eight percent of the vote in the general election in February but Michael D Higgins has secured closer to 30 percent here, so that’s quite a turnaround too,” Senator Whelan commented.
SEE THIS WEEK’S OFFALY EXPRESS FOR EXTENSIVE REPORT, ANALYSIS AND REACTION