AN astounding vote in the general election for Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley saw him top the poll in Laois/Offaly, leaving senior government minister Charlie Flanagan (FG) trailing in his wake.
Sinn Féin’s nationwide surge was replicated in the midland constituency over the weekend, when its party spokesperson on agriculture Brian Stanley swept all before him by garnering 16,654 first preference votes.
Laois and Offaly were divided into separate constituencies in the last general election in 2016, which saw three candidates elected in each county. This time around, the counties were reunited in a five-seater and before the election count even began, one of the six was not going to be returned.
That candidate proved to be former Fine Gael junior minister Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy.
Stanley began his political career in the local elections of 1994, where he lost out for a seat on the town commission. He had to wait until the 2011 general election before entering the national stage, taking the fourth of five seats ahead of Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming, with Charlie Flanagan topping the poll.
In 2016 it was Fleming’s turn to top the poll in the new three-seat Laois constituency, with Stanley coming in second place and Flanagan elected without reaching the quota.
This time around, Stanley confounded the political correspondents with his massive vote haul.
Barry Cowen (FF) took the second seat on the eighth count, leaving Independent TD Carol Nolan, minister Flanagan and Seán Fleming as the likely candidates for the last three seats.
Green Party candidate Pippa Hackett had an exceptional election and was still in the race as we went to press.
Also performing well was Solidarity – People Before Profit candidate Stephen Tynan, who was eliminated on the fourth count with a creditable 2,273 votes. In 2011, the party’s candidate achieved only 604 votes.
Asked why he got such a huge vote, deputy Stanley said: “When you consider where the party first started out from over 30 years ago to when we were only on about 1% of the vote to where we are now, on nearly 25% of first choice for voters, it’s really down to hard work, dedication and a thriving organisation we have now in Laois. We also revised the party in Offaly and that helped us out greatly.”
And asked what his preferred make-up of the next administration would be, he said: “We will look at the fallout and where the parties stand after the election. My first preference would be to form a left-wing government. My second preference would be to form as close to a left-wing government as possible.”