John Snell: won seat

Gardaí had to be called after a candidate became involved in a polling station scuffle during last week's local elections in Wicklow.

Sinn Féin's John Snell and a supporter of Fianna Fáil's Jane Dignam had an altercation amid recriminations about illegal canvassing.

One witness said the dispute centred on a dispute over the pair canvassing in the same area at the same time.

"I was very shook up over the incident as both parties lost their temper and things began to get messy. There has been political rivalry between the two families for a long time now. There were words exchanged and a scuffle began, and some of those working in the polling station tried to break up the row," the witness said.

A brawl ensued in which some canvassers and locals promptly left the scene and a nearby onlooker called the guards.

A garda spokesperson said: "We can confirm that local garda did attend a minor
scuffle near Rathnew polling station but no complaints were made, no statements were taken and no arrests were made."

But there was a further blow for Fianna Fáil's Dignam as Snell took a seat for Rathnew in the ensuing political fallout, effectively taking it from under Dignam, who also hails from Rathnew.

Snell, who polled very well on his first time out as the dark horse of the Wicklow elections, took in almost 2,000 first-preference votes. Dignam polled almost half of this quota with 949 votes, a 7.95% share of the votes.

Snell said he did not want the incident to be "blown all out of proportion", adding he was delighted to have won his seat and would make it his priority to represent Rathnew and all of Wicklow.

Dignam refused to comment.