The celebrations on Monday after Paul Hogan was elected on the final Athlone-area count. L-R: Dorrie Mangan, Harry Canning, John Moran, director of elections, Paul Hogan, Roddy Hogan, Patricia Hogan, Nuala Bolger and Sean Managan. Photos: Paul Molloy.

Hogan takes last Athlone seat after 'rollercoaster' count

On Monday, five years after a defeat in the previous local election, Paul Hogan bounced back by winning a seat on Westmeath County Council on the tenth and final count in the Athlone electoral area.

The Independent Ireland representative will join Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Frankie Keena, Aengus O'Rourke and John Dolan as one of the five Athlone-area council representatives.

The Retreat Park native was previously a Sinn Féin, and then Independent councillor for Athlone, and was controversially co-opted back onto the council after 'Boxer' Moran's son Jamie resigned from the local authority in January 2022. This victory before the electorate for him was, therefore, his first in a few years.

Hogan said: "I was co-opted into the last council two-and-a-half years ago, and the election previous to that I had lost. How do I feel? I'm absolutely over the moon.

"It has been a very difficult couple of days going through the votes," he acknowledged. "It's been like a roller-coaster, where you're up in one count and down in another."

It's believed he is one of the candidates with the lowest first-preference votes to ultimately end up elected to Westmeath County Council.

In the first count, he received only 310 first-preference votes, 8th out of the 11 candidates running. Ironically, Hogan received a larger percentage of first-preference votes in 2019, when he didn't succeed in getting elected.

"I'm delighted with the support I've received. I want to thank all of the people that voted for me, even those that didn't give me their first preference, but just gave me a preference down the line.

"This election today has shown how important it is to fill that card, in terms of all of the candidates, regardless of your political perspectives. There was eight and ninth preferences coming in as full votes there towards the end. It was amazing to see it work.

"I'd like to thank my director of elections, I’d like to thank my campaign team, all those that voted for me and particularly the management and staff [at Moate Community Centre] for conducting the election with such diligence and affording everybody time to look over their ballot papers."

On what his priorities will be as he returns to the council, he said: "There's a number of issues there. Housing is always a big one. Congestion in town needs to be addressed.

"We're very lucky in terms of the team returned collectively in the Athlone electoral area. We now have five members who collectively have nearly 100 years of experience in local government. We have a very, very strong team.

"I certainly look forward to working with them, and the members of the Moate LEA and indeed all of the members of the county council.

"There's big decisions going forward, in terms of key strategic policy decisions for the town for the next ten or fifteen years," Hogan concluded, as he prepared for another stint on the council.