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Local elections 2024 – Offaly: Sinn Féin the comeback kids as final results see Fianna Fáil hold most seats

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Sean Maher (SF) and Audrey Hennessy Kennedy (FF) became the final two candidates elected to Offaly County Council and now all seats in the county have been filled.

The election of the last two candidates was delayed after Social Democrats’ Clare Claffey called for a recount after count 12.

On course to be eliminated after that count late on Monday night, just 27 votes separated her from Sinn Féin’s Sean Maher.

While four errors were identified during the examination of all 15 candidates’ votes, it was deemed that these would not materially affect the outcome of the count and Mr Maher and Ms Hennessy Kennedy were elected.

Fianna Fáil just about managed to hold on to the eight seats they held since the 2019 election and remain the biggest party in the council.

For Sinn Féin though, it was an important weekend as they made gains in a county where before, they had no sitting councillors. They now have three seats, with one sitting councillor in each electoral area.

The party secured three seats in the 2014 local elections but lost them all in 2019.

For Sinn Féin’s Aoife Masterson, who is a first time candidate, and was elected this weekend, she said the result was a “monumental achievement” for the party.

“It’s been an absolutely fantastic day for Sinn Féin in Offaly. It’s a monumental achievement.

When you consider where we were in 2019, we’ve really focused and built back our roots and focused on what we can deliver for the community and it’s finally paid off today,” Ms Masterson said.

But it hasn’t been good news for Sinn Féin across the country. Ms Masterson said the disappointing national result now means Sinn Féin needs to learn from the mistakes made in this election.

“This weekend isn’t the weekend we’d hoped for, there’s no doubt about that. But we’ll do like we did before, in 2019. We’ll listen, we’ll go back to our base, go back to our constituents, learn from the mistakes we’ve made and build going forward,” she said.

It was also a big moment for Ms Masterson’s party colleague Sean Maher, who regained the seat he lost in 2019.

“I’m a bit over the moon now, ecstatic. Absolutely delighted considering in 2019 we lost the seat and to come back in 2024 and win it is fabulous for myself, the family and the people who have worked with us,” Mr Maher said.

“We got it over the line eventually, after a long few days. So, it’s on to work for the people of Birr,” he added.

The Green Party now has no representatives on Offaly County Council, after Mark Hackett lost his seat in Edenderry.

Four sitting councillors lost their seats in this election. Two of those were councillors who had been co-opted into their seats.

Sandy Feehan Smollen was co-opted onto Offaly County Council last September after her husband Ken Smoll stepped down from his position last September.

She did not manage to retain the seat in Tullamore LEA and while wasn’t eliminated, she did not come close enough to the quota to be elected on count 6.

While Pippa Hackett’s husband Mark Hackett who was co-opted into the seat in 2019 when she was elected to Seanad and became a Minister of State, also lost out.

Clare Claffey (SD) who was elected in 2019 lost her sit at the bitter end of the counting process while it was also a disappointing result for Fianna Fáil’s Robert McDermott who didn’t manage to hold on to his seat.

On Monday, Fine Gael’s Hugh Egan was elected after reaching the quota in count 11.

Mr Egan became emotional when asked how he was feeling after being elected and said he was thinking of his daughter who was in Australia and for the people who worked on his campaign.

“I’m feeling over the moon, I’m feeling elated. I’m feeling a bit emotional, I have a daughter in Australia, I’m thinking of her now.

“Look at this for a team around here, this is for them. I had lads driving me during the week, I had lads knocking on doors, putting up posters,” he said.

Mr Egan said he was glad he was able to secure a Fine Gael seat in his local area of Doon.

“There was a seat down in Doon for forty years, we lost it in 2014. So it’s after taking us three elections to get it back, but we have it back now,” Mr Egan said.

For the newly elected candidate, he intends to go “back to the basics” of what the people need from the local council.

“It’s the very same as what I said on the doors. I’m back to basics, I’m back doing what a councillor’s job is, representing the local people with the basics of what they want. The roads, the ditches, the planning permissions.

“Back to basics, back to grassroots, look after the local people,” Mr Egan said.

Hugh Egan’s election meant Fine Gael increased the number of seats in Offaly by one, from four to five seats.

In count 10, Fianna Fáil’s Barbara Daly was eliminated.

It’s a significant development here in Offaly, as the seat has been held by Ms Daly’s family for close to 70 years.

Ms Daly’s brother Eamon Dooley announced that he would be retiring from the council and would not stand for re-election and resulted in his sister Barbara being selected to run in the area.

The seat was previously held by their father Eddie Joe Dooley.

Those elected to the council in the Tullamore LEA is as follows:

Neil Feighery (FG), Frank Moran (FF), Aoife Masterson (SF), Sean O’Brien (Ind), Tony McCormack (FF), Declan Harvey (FF), Ollie Bryant (FF).

Edenderry was the first LEA in Offaly to fill its seats, with the last two candidates Noel Cribbin (FG) and Claire Murray (SF) elected without reaching the quota.

There will now be two Claire Murrays on Offaly Council this year and Ms Murray’s election is significant for Sinn Féin who have gained two seats in the county.

The six seats in the Edenderry LEA were filled by:

Eddie Fitzpatrick (FF), Fergus McDonnell (Ind Irl), Claire Murray (FF), Liam Quinn (FG), Noel Cribbin (FG), Claire Murray (SF).

The final result for the Birr LEA saw the following candidates elected:

John Clendennen (FG), Hugh Egan (FG), Audrey Hennessy-Kennedy (FF), John Leahy (Ind), Sean Maher (SF), Peter Ormond (FF).

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