‘Estactic’ was the way current Fermanagh council chairman Alex Baird described how he felt after topping the poll by over 400 votes in the Erne West DEA (district electoral area) at the Northern Ireland council elections.
The Ulster Unionist veteran received 1619 first preference votes sailing past the quota of 1154 votes required to be elected.
Councillor Baird said he felt it was a considerable achievement in his third election to have increased his vote from 1258 last time around to now 1619.
“I have tried to work hard for the people of Erne West and they are the people who have given me their first preference votes.
Also elected after the first count, and also passing the election quota, was independent candidate Bernice Swift.
Bernice said she was ‘really pleased’ with how the vote went for her, but said it had been hard work over the past number of weeks out on the campaign trail.
“There are exciting time ahead for us all,” added the newly elected councillor.
As is the way with PR (proportional representation) voting the surplus over the quota of the elected candidates is then redistributed to the remaining candidates.
First to be transferred was Alex Baird’s surplus of 465 votes but this didn’t bring any of the other candidates up to the quota.
Next was Bernice Swift’s 41 surplus but again no-one gained enough from this to make it over the line.
It was only at stage four of the counting process which saw Sinn Fein’s Leanne Maguire excluded that Sinn Fein’s
Barry Doherty (receiving 574 of her 791 first preference votes) reached 1567 votes and was elected as the third of the five councillors for Erne West.
Speaking after being elected Barry Doherty’s said he was ‘very happy to be going back into the new council’.
“It’s an exciting time for us but I’m glad to get over the line and take a seat in the new body. We will have the new powers and how we will operate them for the benefit of FDC. A lot of time you felt you were consulting in the council but it was going nowhere but now we have a chance to exercise some power on behalf of the people and that’s what excites me” continued the Sinn Fein councillor.
Stage five, the transfer of Barry Doherty’s surplus benefited his party colleague Anthony Feely who was elected at this stage.
“I’m very pleased. It was a good campaign and we got a good response out around the doors’, said Anthony Feely, one of a number of first time candidates to be elected in the 2014 council elections.
The transfer of his votes (stage six of the count) saw the SDLP’s Brendan Gallagher elected as the fifth and last councillor for Erne West.
Mr Gallagher had sat in the count hall with family, friends and supporters throughout each stage of the count and had looked very concerned about whether or not he would be elected.
The visibly relieved Garrison man told the ‘Herald’ it was great to be elected. “That’s the goal of standing in any election,” he said. “The goal is to get a seat on the new council.”
Brendan thanked all his party colleagues and was congratulated by Alex Baird who told him ‘that’s what PR is all about Brendan’.
Erne West was the first of the four electoral areas being counted in Omagh Leisure Centre on Friday evening to be concluded with five councillors elected shortly before 9pm.
Erne West was also the first to be officially declared by returning officer Joan McCaffrey in the foyer of the count centre.
Alex Baird was the only of the five elected councillors to take to the stage to speak. He thanked the 1619 voters who had put their trust in him, and he gave an assurance he wouldn’t let them down.