In spite of an early start and no major obstacles during the day, the first day of the local election count in Roscommon has ended without anyone elected, or even a first count completed.
Returning officer Shane Tiernan announced just before midnight (Satuday) that the count would be adjourned at 1am and that he did not expect any results tonight.
From the early tallies as the boxes were opened, it was clear that the results would not be clear-cut, and that the final two seats in the six-seater Athlone area would be hotly contested.
Independents led the charge from early on, with Tony Ward quickly shooting to the top of the field. The final tallies placed him at 1,864 votes, well above the estimated quota of 1,407. Ivan Connaughton was a clear second with 1,587, in his first time contesting the election as an Independent candidate since leaving Fianna Fail last December.
It was also clear that Fine Gael’s John Naughten would hold onto his seat, with tallies placing him at 1,447 votes, while Fianna Fail’s John Keogh also looks strong at 1,014.
After that it is all to play for, with candidates and their supporters speculating throughout the day about how the surplus votes and transfers would be distributed, and what effect that would have on the final two seats.
Four candidates appear to be in the running for those: Donal Kilduff (Ind) who will be hoping to fill the seat being vacated by his father Paddy; Laurence Fallon (Ind) who is hoping to retain his seat; and two Fianna Fail candidates – Seamus Kelly and Malachy Hand.
The remaining candidates who appear to be out of the running are Ger Grehan (FG), Joe Harney (SF), and Derek McCabe (Ind).
With a projected quota of 1,407, Tony Ward, Ivan Connaughton, and probably John Naughten look set to be elected on the first count, which is expected tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Tony Ward in particular will have a lot of surplus votes to distribute – more than 400 – which should shake things up in the race for the final two seats in the Athlone area.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, Laurence Fallon said he was hopeful that transfers would get him over the line. “If the trend continues as it is now I should be okay… I appear to be transfer-friendly,” he said.
Meanwhile John Keogh was holding out hope that one of his colleagues, Seamus Kelly and Malachy Hand, would bag a second seat in the Athlone area for Fianna Fáil.
"I'm happy to take the last seat if that means my colleagues can take a seat too. At 25 per cent of the vote, there's no reason why we shouldn't take the two seats,” he said.
A delighted Tony Ward, who will be the first person over the line tomorrow, said he was “very happy with the result”, and that the race for the fifth and sixth seat could be “very tight”.
The count will recommence at 9.30am tomorrow morning, and we’ll be here throughout the day with live updates on www.westmeathindependent.ie.