How low can you go? The worst performing candidates at the 2009 Local Elections

Adrian Kavanagh, 22nd November 2013

In a contest there has to be winners. And there has to be losers. Some election candidates can win big. Others can lose…badly. As the 2011 General Election results showed, for every Shane Ross or Enda Kenny there also has to be a Peadar O Ceallaigh (with his 18 vote tally in Dublin South East).  But with smaller constituencies at local elections (and fewer votes to share around as a result), the tendency to go even lower in these contests is decidedly notable. So how did the 2009 Local Elections fare in the regard and who were the candidates winning the lowest vote numbers/shares? 

There were a number of candidates who won small numbers of votes (50, or under) at these contests. The best of these was Sinn Fein’s Jack Mulvey in Granard, who won 48 votes and at least was able to win more than 1% of the quota.  A number of independent candidates also figures prominently in this group, including Shane O’Neill (Dun Laoghaire), Mecky McBrearty (Bantry), Ger O’Brien (Castlerea) and John McCrann (Carrick on Shannon). The weakest performance by an independent was by Errol Farrell in Mullingar West, although O’Neill’s vote was lower than this when expressed as a percentage of the quota. The one lesson here would be to quit while you are ahead…or in this case well behind. This lesson alas was lost on Waterford City candidate, Ram Ramasamy, who contested two wards in the city and got a spookily similar (low) number of votes in both of these! Surely there was no other candidate who fared as poorly as these unfortunate candidates? Er…

Let’s just put it this way – this table tells it all!

Candidate Party Vote % Quota Electoral Area
Jack Mulvey SF 48 1.20 Granard
Shane O’Neill IND 36 0.20 Dun Laoghaire
John McCrann IND 34 0.64 Carrick on Shannon
Colm Callanan CSP 30 0.38 Ferbane
Mecky McBrearty IND 25 0.21 Bantry
Ram Ramasamy IND 24 0.40 Waterford City South
Ger O’Brien IND 23 0.25 Castlerea
Ram Ramasamy IND 23 0.54 Waterford City North
Thomas King IND 22 0.25 Galway City East
Colm Callanan CSP 20 0.28 Birr
Errol Farrell IND 19 0.29 Mullingar East
Colm Callanan CSP 14 0.23 Mountmellick
Colm Callanan CSP 13 0.14 Edenderry
Colm Callanan CSP 11 0.20 Emo
Colm Callanan CSP 10 0.09 Tullamore
Colm Callanan CSP 9 0.16 Luggacurren
Colm Callanan CSP 8 0.09 Borris in Ossory
Colm Callanan CSP 6 0.07 Portlaoise

Yes, surpassing Rama in his multiple-contest-contesting tendencies was the Christian Solidarity Party candidate, Colm Callanan. One of the areas he contested was his home electoral area of Crumlin-Kimmage and he won 143 votes there – a disappointing result, which left him in last place, some 757 votes behind the next lowest placed candidate, Tony McDermott of the Greens, although he did pick up a further 3 votes in the next count from the Eric Byrne surplus before then exiting the contest. These exploits in his home electoral area were surpassed (or whatever the opposite word to surpassed is) by his results in the eight constituencies he also decided to contest in the (then) Laois-Offaly constituency area however, with voters there delivering a harsh verdict on his electoral hopes. In fairness his result in Ferbane exceeded those of some of the other candidates in the table above and in all he managed to win 73 votes in the Offaly electoral areas, with the bulk of these coming from the more western constituencies. The Laois electorate had even less compassion however, with only 37 votes being won by him across the four electoral constituencies in the O’Moore County. Oops. In three of these his vote tally fell into the single figures also! The worst was to come in the Portlaoise electoral area. It would have been expected that those who would have remembered poor old Joseph Frederick Bannan’s 8 vote tally in this constituency at the 1991 Local Elections would have advised Colm to steer well clear of The Town, but apparently nobody did and he ended up with a paltry 6 votes there (one vote out of every 1,390 votes cast stats fans). Oops to the power of two.

These electoral horrors might have been expected to encourage Colm to quit electoral politics, but he was back again in the 2011 General Election. And won his biggest ever number of first preference votes (239) in his home constituency of Dublin South-Central, finishing ahead of five other (independent) candidates. There is a lesson there for the less-frequent-ballot-ticking-botherers and it may be about perseverance, but it may also be about the need to…

Steer well clear of “The Town”


About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email:
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