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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Letterkenny/Milford Electoral Area: Fine Gael take hammering across Donegal

Greg Harkin

Published 25/05/2014 | 16:17

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FINE GAEL took a hammering at the polls across Donegal and is expected to lose two places on the local authority despite eight additional seats being available this time around.

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Independents and Sinn Fein look like being the big winners with both set to double their representation in Lifford when the council sits again next month with 37 councillors instead of 29; the seats added after the abolition of town councils.

The first preference vote performance of independents appeared to surprise the main political parties.

John O’Donnell, whose father sat on the council until his death in a road traffic accident in 1993, was one of the strongest performers in the Letterkenny area.

“People voted for change because they are tired of old party politics,” said the 33-year-old independent.

“Austerity is wrecking people’s lives and we have to work from the local grassroots up to turn that around.”

Another Independent, Killybegs mother-of-three Niamh Kennedy won huge support in the Donegal electoral area, the 44-year-old’s vote boosted by her work over the past five years on the fishing village’s community forum.

Independent Frank McBrearty Jnr, who has campaigned against Garda corruption, was elected on the first count in the Stranorlar area.

Ian McGarvey, Ireland’s oldest mayor at 83, was also returned to the council.

On the new council, Fianna Fail is expected to have 13 councillors, up two, Sinn Fein eight, up four, and independents nine, up from five.

The Blaney family dynasty in north Donegal will continue after Liam Blaney was among those topping the poll in the Letterkenny/Milford electoral area.

Cllr Blaney, brother of former Fianna Fail TD Niall, was returned with a massive first preference vote in his native Fanad.

“There is a great deal of anger out there, especially in rural areas at austerity and its effects on people from all backgrounds,” he said.

“Depopulation and rural decline is a major issue now.”

The decline in the Fine Gael vote however was on the minds of party stalwarts.

Donegal North East Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh warned there was a message for government in the vote.

“We have a situation where good hard-working Fine Gael councillors are getting caught up in the cross-fire of the electorate telling Government to get their act together,” he said.

“They are giving us 18 months or two years to change direction.

“Here in Donegal it is a message to a government that it needs to bring jobs to counties like this, but especially here to a county which has been ignored politically for more than 100 years.”

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