De­mand­ing Dick drags out a long tough cam­paign

Bray People - - ELECTION 2011 - DEB­O­RAH COLE­MAN

GROANS OF DIS­GUST and dis­ap­point­ment rang out in Shore­line Leisure Cen­tre at 6.30pm on Sun­day evening as re­turn­ing of­fi­cer Pa­tri­cia Casey an­nounced a re­count at the be­hest of Dick Roche, af­ter he was elim­i­nated at the 13th count.

She said Dick Roche had re­quested a full re­count and ex­am­i­na­tion of the 70,000 odd votes cast in the Gar­den County.

And with one fell swoop the count was ad­journed for the evening.

In the cold light of Mon­day, bleary eyed and show­ing signs of ex­haus­tion tinged with a sense of delir­ium can­di­dates, sup­port­ers, coun­ters and mem­bers of the pub­lic trudged back to the count cen­tre. This ex­haus­tion made even more no­tice­able by the perk­i­ness of ex­er­cise bun­nies who had come to the Leisure Cen­tre for an en­tirely dif­fer­ent pur­pose.

And Dick’s claim on Mon­day that the sit­u­a­tion would not have arisen if elec­tronic vot­ing was in place did noth­ing to en­dear him to long suf­fer­ing work­ers and ob­servers at the count.

Through­out the morn­ing, tal­ly­men and women were deep in con­cen­tra­tion as ev­ery vote was ex­am­ined and re-ex­am­ined, each in­ter­ested party ready to pounce if they no­ticed even the slight­est thing amiss.

Wick­low has long since been some­what of a laugh­ing stock when it comes to elec­tions and this year will surely sur­pass the whole Mil­dred Fox/Nicky Kelly saga by a coun­try mile, as Wick­low had still even to elect a can­di­date more than 48 hours af­ter the bal­lot boxes were opened. Run­ning in a Gen­eral Elec­tion has got to be, in ways, like no other chal­lenge.

Through­out the week­end, can­di­dates had waited pa­tiently for news of whether they were elected or not and the large num­ber run­ning meant that many, al­though they knew their fate, were forced to wait for al­most three days be­fore be­ing fi­nally and of­fi­cially elim­i­nated fol­low­ing Mon­day’s re­count.

As an out­sider, the one thing that struck me about al­most all the can­di­dates was the loy­alty and sup­port shown by their fam­i­lies.

One sitting county coun­cil­lor re­marked how glad he was that the voice of rea­son - aka his wife - had the sense in re­cent months to con­vince him not to throw his hat in the ring when he was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing do­ing so. And yes, the fur­rowed brows, dis­ap­pointed de­meanours and at times, ut­ter con­fu­sion on the faces of the elim- inated can­di­dates told just how tough it felt to be out of the race.

Pub­lic life is dif­fi­cult and very of­ten the part­ners and fam­i­lies are the un­sung heroes.

Dur­ing a chat with Sinn Féin’s John Brady, it be­came clear to me just how im­por­tant fam­ily is and how a loyal part­ner of­ten makes it pos­si­ble for a can­di­date to run for elec­tion when his young chil­dren, obliv­i­ous to the oc­ca­sion, lined up to hug and kiss their dad be­fore leav­ing with their grand­mother.

His wife, Gail, stayed be­hind at the cen­tre to lend her sup­port and Brady ad­mit­ted that with­out her back­ing him up his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer would not be pos­si­ble.

‘With­out Gail I wouldn’t have been able to do it all. Her mother minded the kids and for the last four weeks we have hardly seen them,’ he ex­plains.

‘We are all so proud of John,’ adds Gail. ‘It has been a com­plete roller­coaster and we couldn’t have put any more in.’

Sim­i­larly for Ark­low-based In­de­pen­dent can­di­date Peter Dempsey, who de­clared on foot of re­quests by the peo­ple of South Wick­low, his fam­ily was there to back him up and el­dest daugh­ter Mar­sha beamed with pride as she hugged her dad and com­mis­er­ated with him.

De­spite a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult, he took a pos­i­tive stance in the face of de­feat and said that he viewed this elec­tion as a steep learn­ing curve and pos­si­bly the be­gin­ning of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

‘It might sound strange but I am feel­ing happy and op­ti­mistic in­stead of be­ing de­flated. I learned an aw­ful lot and I be­lieve that this is only the be­gin­ning.’

The first can­di­date to ar­rive at the count cen­tre was In­de­pen­dent Joe Be­han, who re­signed from the Fianna Fáil party in 2008 over pro­pos­als to with­draw the au­to­matic med­i­cal card to those over 70.

Look­ing de­spon­dent he was clearly sup­ported by his wife who re­mained by his side from early morn­ing in the face of sur­pris­ingly poor fig­ures.

Hav­ing served just one Dáil term dur­ing his 26-year long po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, he will re­turn to his po­si­tion of school prin­ci­pal in Bray, but has al­ready sug­gested a re­turn to lo­cal pol­i­tics. ‘I am feel­ing philo­soph­i­cal at the mo­ment,’ he ex­plained. ‘I have no re­grets about any de­ci­sion I made and though I am dis­ap­pointed with my vote, it is not the end. I made my de­ci­sions on a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple and that was very dif­fi­cult but I would not change any­thing.’

Gemma Har­ris, sis­ter of Si­mon Har­ris (FG) can­di­date at the Wick­low/East Car­low con­stituency Gen­eral Elec­tion count in the Shore­line Cen­tre, Grey­stones, County Wick­low.

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