Battle of Blackrock over, but will "bygones be bygones" as Hanafin says?

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, the Irish Examiner, in City West

The battle in Blackrock is over, but the war within Fianna Fáil over ex-minister Mary Hanafin's decision to run in the area may be only just beginning.

On Saturday, Ms Hanafin raced to victory in the Blackrock election for Dublin's Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, cruising to a seat despite Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin's vocal opposition.

The controversial candidate was elected on the first count, behind Fine Gael's Marie Baker, and crucially just above official Fianna Fáil candidate, 28-year-old Kate Feeney. While Ms Feeney also gained election, taking the third of six seats, the positions will add further venom to the public row between the pair.

The controversy over Ms Hanafin's candidacy emerged in the weeks before the election, when she forced her way onto the ballot without the approval of her own party, who backed the new generation Ms Feeney.

While the matter is now being examined by Fianna Fáil's disciplinary committee, with a party spokesperson stating only one "authorised" candidate was elected for them in Blackrock, that didn't seem to affect Ms Hanafin, who arrived at the City West count tearfully telling onlookers: "I missed you, I missed you".

She said the result "vindicated" her decision to run, that she was "delighted how it worked out" and how she is "willing to let bygones be bygones".

However, the ex-minister later pointedly said the party could treat its candidates "a little better" and suggested there is an impression "you weren't wanted unless you were under 30".

When asked about any plans beyond the council, she said the local authority vote "is the only mandate I have, for the moment".

On her arrival at City West later that evening, Ms Feeney was equally swamped by reporters.

Despite stressing her focus is "getting elected", the only question on every reporters' lips was how she felt about Ms Hanafin.

She declined to put forward an opinion on whether her party should now drop disciplinary action against her new colleague. She stressed she is "looking forward to sitting down with everyone who's elected" when asked specifically about how the two Fianna Fáil councillors will combine.

But when asked if either herself or Ms Hanafin had passed on their congratulations at the double-win result, she simply responded: "I haven't spoken to Mary today, no."

Among the other candidates to gain success in Blackrock was Fine Gael's Marie Baker and Barry Ward, the Independent's Victor Boyhan and Labour's Deirdre Kingston. The fact the only change in the expanded area's results between 2009 and 2014 is the presence of two Fianna Fáil councillors only underlines the new atmosphere on the council.

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