The political landscape in County Tipperary has been turned on its head, with the national obliteration of the Fianna Fail party also being reflected in The Premier County where no representative has been returned to the 31st Dail, following Fridays sea-changing election.
For the first time since the foundation of the party, there will be no member of Fianna Fail representing either of the Tipperary constituencies in the Dail with sitting TD’s Dr Martin Mansergh and Deputy Maire Hoctor having both lost their seats.
But, while much of the focus nationally has been on the fallout from Fianna Fails whitewash at the polls, the two Tipperary constituencies tell tales of great significance in their own right, with Seamus Healy’s return to the Dail in South Tipperary being over-shadowed only by the stunning performance of Deputy Michael Lowry who topped the poll for the third consecutive time with a massive 14,104 first preference votes.
Healy, of the Workers and Unemployed Action Group, lost out by only 59 votes in the last election, but returned to be first past the post this time round, eventhough Fine Gael’s Tom Hayes actually had more first preference votes at 8,896 compared to 8818.
The big big story though relates to the political king of Tipperary, Michael Lowry. Along with Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin, Lowry was the only Government supporting TD to top the poll, and he had in excess of 2000 votes to spare when the all the ballot boxes were counted. An emotional Lowry said that he was “humbled by the enormity of the support” he received in an election fought on the basis of his record of delivery. It was, said the 56 year old, “ the best day of my political career” and he felt a “huge sense of personal achievement” with the outcome.
It was also a huge day for Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan who polled a very impressive 11,435 first preference votes as well - just 600 short of the quota. Both he, and party colleague Tom Hayes, can well expect to be in line for a place in the higher echelons of the party structure when the Ministerial places - senior and junior -are handed out. Into that frame too could come Labour’s Alan Kelly who returned from Europe to claim the third and final seat in North Tipperary having warded off the challenge of former Junior Minister Maire Hoctor.
Kelly more than doubled the Labour first preference vote and received the necessary transfers to bring him over the line, thereby perhaps paving the way for Senator Phil Prendergast, who did not make the cut in South Tipperary, to get her ticket to Brussels to replace Kelly.
Meanwhile, former Fianna Fail member Mattie McGrath took the final seat in South Tipperary to rub further salt into the gaping party wounds.
But, while Fianna Fail’s standing in the county is at an all time low in terms of Oireachtas representation, they still, presently retain two Senate seats with Senator John Hanafin and Labhras O’Murchu clinging on. This could change however in the coming weeks.