Disaster looms for Fianna Fail as voters stay away
A PREDICTED low voter turnout in Donegal South West could spell disaster for Fianna Fail in one of its safest constituencies in the country.
Today, the eyes and ears of the country will be fixed on an athletics centre in Ballybofey where votes are being counted in a crucial by-election contest that is being seen as a barometer of the public mood.
But with less than 50pc of the electorate expected to have voted by 10pm last night, hopes of a loyal Fianna Fail surge to boost the party's morale were fading fast.
Losing this seat for a party that has confidently commanded over 50pc of the vote in the constituency in the past would be seen as a crushing defeat.
With Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty looking increasingly like the strongest contender for the seat, both Fine Gael's Barry O'Neill and Labour's Frank McBrearty last night claimed they were in close contention.
Yesterday, across the sprawling constituency that stretches from Tory Island in the north to Bundoran in the south, frosty roads greeted early-morning voters.
Sleet showers gave way to sunshine, which in turn yielded to heavy rain, the changing nature of the day capturing the mood of a confused, despondent electorate.
"I would have always voted Fianna Fail in the past but I probably won't be voting today," commented one local outside FF candidate Brian O Domhnaill's home polling station in Gortahork.
"I don't see the point in voting Fianna Fail but I wouldn't be voting for anyone else either," he added.
In Annagry, Biddy McGee (105) braved the cold to cast her vote but she was giving nothing away.
Southwards through the Fianna Fail heartland of the Rosses and into Dungloe, it emerged that, significantly, outgoing Fianna Fail TD and MEP Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher had remained in Brussels.
Outside St Crona's Primary School, a family of three would only indicate that they had broken with tradition on the way they had just voted.
"I intend to spoil my vote. It is the only way I can think of to express my anger at the mess the country is in," said a woman in Ballyshannon.
The candidates, meanwhile, were all talking up their chances of victory. But it will be mid-afternoon today before the electorate of Donegal South West makes its voice heard.