MAYO ELECTIONS 2019: Duel between Carey and Whelan holds Erris centre stage

Story by Tom Kelly

Thursday, 23rd May, 2019 5:00pm

MAYO ELECTIONS 2019: Duel between Carey and Whelan holds Erris centre stage

IF returning officer John Condon and his team are considering where best to start their vote counting next Saturday, then probably the boxes from the Belmullet electoral area represent the most fitting choice.

A district with six candidates vying for three seats should, in theory at least, be a routine operation.

This is how it should go.

Outgoing Achill Fianna Fáil Councillor Paul McNamara should top the poll by increasing his first preference return of 1,351 in the 2014 election. He may not exceed the quota after the opening count but will have his seat more or less wrapped up.

His party colleague in Belmullet, Sean Carey, is also expected to improve his return of 1,997 from five years ago.

If he is ahead of outgoing Sinn Féin Councillor Teresa Whelan, co-opted to the authority in place of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh in 2016, then the proverbial fun and games can begin because the duel between Carey and Whelan holds centre stage.

Political observers have been closely watching this head-to-head and everyday it seems to change in favour or one or the other.

Fully aware of just how key the battle is, Senator Conway-Walsh, who took the seat in 2014 with a haul of 2,075 first preferences, has been doing her utmost in recent days for ensure Whelan wins the cliffhanger while local Fianna Fáil TDs have been doing the same to get their man over the line.

Those who were around for the 1999 election when Ballycroy's Frank Leneghan took the last council seat ahead of Michael Holmes following a series of recounts will know that every seat counts, with Leneghan's win giving Fianna Fáil control of the council.

The aforementioned Holmes subsequently had his day in the sun and his retirement will ensure that Ballycroy-based Fine Gael candidate, Breege Grealis, will be closer to the 1,000 mark than the 500 mark after the first count.

However, it is unlikely she poses a serious threat to her colleague, outgoing Councillor Gerry Coyle, who is expected to retain his seat on the back of Grealis transfers.

Inver Independent Jay Heneghan will be the first to be eliminated and the drama will really start kicking in after that.

In the end, the last candidates standing will be McNamara, Coyle and Carey with Sinn Féin having suffered a damaging wound.

Prediction: FF (2), FG (1).

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