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Ros-Galway: 1st Count: Naughten romps home



While the outcome was never in doubt, the scale of the victory of Roscommon’s loyal crusader Denis Naughten raised more than a few eyebrows among political stalwarts as he romped home in the frustratingly slow first count of the Roscommon-Galway constituency.

Naughten won 13,936 first preference votes, easily reaching the quota of 11,421 with a turnout of 71.6%.

Fellow independent Michael Fitzmaurice was next in line, with 9,750 votes, making him next in line to take a seat in the three-seater which will see him on the cusp of election on the second count, but more likely to take a third.

The race is now on this evening for the third seat between Fine Gael’s Maura Hopkins, a Roscommon County Councillor and occupational therapist,  and Eugene Murphy for Fianna Fáil, also a county councillor and Shannonside FM presenter and producer with just a single vote between them.

Hopkins polled 6,812, while Murphy shaded it with 6,813.

The victor will all depend on where the transfers from Naughten fall, with tallies declaring no set pattern for any particular candidate.

Nobody was eliminated so attention will now turn to distributing all of Naughten’s 2,515 surplus votes.

Denis Naughten, 42, was first elected to the Seanad at a by-election in 1997 when the seat was vacated upon the death of his father Liam. Later that year he won a seat to the Dáil for the Longford-Roscommon constituency. He topped the poll in 2011 with 19.6% of the first-preference vote while a member of Fine Gael.

His repeat performance, this time as an independent, follows his departure from the party due to their failure to keep the emergency department in Roscommon Hospital open as they had promised to do in the run-up to the last general election.

His toll-topping performance this time around is widely regarded as a vote of supreme gratitude and a kick in the butt for the former party of the native of Drum, near Ballinasloe, who has made Roscommon town his home.

In 2013 he and six others, including Lucinda Creighton, expelled from the main parties formed the Reform Alliance but it was dissolved before the election was called.

1st count
No. Of seats3
Electorate 64,235
Total poll45,995
No. Of spoiled votes315
Total valid poll45,680
Tony Coleman (Ind)214
Eddie Conroy (AAA)982
Shane Curran (FF)2,006
Thom Declan Fallon (ind)75
Ann Farrell (Renua)520
Michael Fitzmaurice (Ind)9,750
Miriam Hennessy (GP)286
Maura Hopkins (FG)6,812
John Kelly (Lab)1,211
Claire Kirrane (SF)3,075
Eugene Murphy (FF)6,813
Denis Naughten (Ind)13,936Surplus of 2,515 being distributed



Naughten asserts his independence at fifth time of asking



It took poll-topper Denis Naughten five elections and a third different constituency to win the vote of the people as an independent.

And it was all the more sweet for him as a result, admitted the former Fine Gael TD, who polled 2,515 first preference votes over the quota in the newly formed Roscommon-Galway constituency.

“People are sick and tired of being taken for granted – that this is a Fianna Fáil house, that is a Fine Gael house – young and old people want a change, they want strong individual TDs who are going to fight for their area,” he insisted, minutes after his election.

“Whichever TD comes out, we will work together on a non-partisan basis for the betterment of the constituency rather than the age old practice of criticising each other. We cannot deliver for this constituency if we bicker among ourselves.”

Deputy Naughten said he was particularly heartened at the phenomenal vote he won from the Galway side of the electorate, having won election previously in Roscommon-Longford and Roscommon-Leitrim.

“I didn’t want to be seen as a Roscommon candidate. The people of East Galway felt abandoned in this constituency. I’ve always reiterated whoever’s elected represented both parts of the constituency, after all Ballinasloe is the economic driver of the region and we have an awful lot in common in terms of pressure on our health services and the need to shore up Portiuncla Hospital and improve the ambulance service.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Fine Gael’s geography lesson



New Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon Galway Eugene Murphy being congratulated by newly weds Niamh Kiernan and Seamus Anderson at the Abbey Hotel Roscommon after a big day for all three of them.

Fine Gael is reviewing the decision which effectively resulted in the party not running a candidate in Ballinasloe – a move which many feel cost the party a vital seat.

Fine Gael headquarters issued a directive to select just one candidate for the Roscommon-Galway constituency and it proved to be a disastrous move.

But not having a candidate in the Ballinasloe end of the constituency meant that Deputy Denis Naughten mopped votes that enabled him to end up more than 2,000 votes more than required to exceed the quota.

The clear run resulted in Naughten sweeping up more than 1,000 first preferences in Ballinasloe town alone. In the Creagh NS box he received almost 400 first preferences, according to the tally figures.

There were two nominated to contest the Fine Gael constituency in the Roscommon-Galway constituency – Cllr Maura Hopkins from Ballaghaderreen in the north of the constituency and Senator Michael Mullins in Ballinasloe.

But then a directive came down from FG headquarters instructing that only one candidate be selected at convention which prompted Senator Mullins to withdraw from the race.

“We left the goal wide open for Naughten to score . . . and by jaysus did he take up the opportunity,” declared Fine Gael’s Cllr Michael Finnerty who had been pushing for a FG candidate in Ballinasloe.

The tally figures show that Maura Hopkins received just over 850 votes in the Ballinasloe area and only lost out on a seat to FF’s Eugene Murphy by a relatively small margin.

Fine Gael now accept that had they run ‘a sweeper’ in Ballinasloe, they would have probably won a seat in the constituency.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Fitzmaurice warning on future of rural Ireland



Michael Fitzmaurice in a buoyant mood after being elected.

Victorious Galway/ Roscommon Independent candidate Michael Fitzmaurice – re-elected to Dail Éireann for the second time in 14 months – has insisted that if smaller towns in rural Ireland are not given “a leg up” then the country is going to lose part of its rural tradition and way of life.

Mr. Fitzmaurice has been one of the strongest campaigners for rural Ireland in recent years and this certainly was not lost on the voters of the hybrid Galway/Roscommon constituency as they bestowed a first preference vote of 9,750 on the Glinsk man.

Indeed, with other Independents around the country securing similar tallies, including Denis Naughten who topped the poll in the Galway/Roscommon constituency with 13,936, Mr. Fitzmaurice believed the message from rural Ireland was very clear.

“Health is obviously a huge issue – be it mental health and general health – but the revival of rural Ireland and providing jobs is another,” said Mr. Fitzmaurice at the count centre in Hyde Park Roscommon.

“I have a document ready to go that I have done on rural Ireland and the revival of it. If we don’t get broadband, if we don’t have banking infrastructure and if we don’t basically give a leg up to the smaller towns, then we are going to lose part of our rural tradition and way of life.

“So, these things have to be done. If we don’t have regional development there will be more of a magnet going to Dublin which causes its own problems. It has to happen and Governments for too long are talking about it and not delivering on the principles we stand for.”

Mr. Fitzmaurice, elected on the sixth count last Saturday, stressed it was time for those in power to listen to the people and begin to embrace the proposals put forward by Independents such as himself with a view to reinvigorating rural communities.

“Our proposals are not revolutionary or anything. They are pretty straightforward stuff. A lot of politicians will agree with it but none of them have delivered on it for the past 20 or 30 years.

“Everyone touches on all these things but the one thing we want to do in a programme for Government is make sure they are pushing it and make sure they are adhered to.”

He hoped though that he and other Independents would now be in a position to push for measures to improve the plight of people in rural Ireland. “Our hand will be getting stronger. There are other Independents I have spoken to today in different parts of the country and there is a responsibility on us to work together and make sure we deliver for the people.

“If the opportunity comes that we are given the opportunity to be in Government or put together a programme for Government we have to make sure that is right for the people.

“If it doesn’t happen, and the two big bedfellows (Fine Gael and Fianna Fail) go together, then there is also a need for an opposition that makes the Government accountable. I think there are equally opportunities coming if the two big parties come together. We can be the largest opposition (group).”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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