Demanding Dick drags out a long tough campaign
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.