Not for the first time, the local elections in Wicklow produced great drama with the last seat being decided by just one vote.
In the end that seat on Wicklow County Council went to Bray East’s Anne Ferris of the Labour Party after a dead-heat between her and Independent and former Fianna Fail member Malachaí Duddy resulted in a two-day recount.
Following the declaration of the results, Mr Duddy asked for another recount but this request was denied by the returning officer – he now has the option of challenging the decision in the courts.
The two candidates finished the original ninth count with 1006 votes each but a recheck of ballot papers turned up one extra previously uncounted vote for poll-topper Steven Matthews of the Green Party.
When the transfers were tracked, it was an extra vote from the surplus of Sinn Fein’s Grace McManus that eventually put Ms Ferris ahead in the eighth count.
At long last, we are changing the face of the Bray Municipal District Council
“At long last, we are changing the face of the Bray Municipal District Council,” Anne told the Wicklow Voice. “For the past five years we had eight male councillors and now there is a equal balance of four women and men. We need strong voices in Bray to represent our town at Wicklow County Council.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Bray East Electoral Area who put their trust in me again. I will do my very best over the next five years.”
Overall, Fine Gael gained one seat in Wicklow, for a total of nine, while Labour secured two seats after losing all six seats in 2014.
The Green Party doubled its numbers to two, although it may regret not running more candidates, particularly in Bray West.
The Social Democrats held on to their single seat while Fianna Fail also retained their seven, although they no longer have a representative in the Bray area.
Sinn Fein secured two, down from the six they achieved in 2014, although two of three councillors expelled in 2017 were re-elected as independents.
But while it is business as usual in that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail continue to dominate local government in the county, it is a younger and more diverse council that will be convening for the first time next month.
Previously, women held just seven of the 32 seats but they now occupy 12, including four in the previously all-male Bray wards and one in the all-male Baltinglass ward.
There are also more young councillors in Grace McManus (27), Rory O’Connor (20) and Avril Cronin (29) while Ms McManus is also the first openly gay public representative on the council.
The breakdown of seats is now: FG 9, FF 7, Green 2, Lab 2, SF 2, SocDem 1, Ind 9.