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Coveney and Martin both outpolled by Ó Laoghaire

Cork South Central

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‘Challenge’: Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaks to reporters in Cork South Central count centre. Photo: Michael MacSweeney

‘Challenge’: Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaks to reporters in Cork South Central count centre. Photo: Michael MacSweeney

‘Challenge’: Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaks to reporters in Cork South Central count centre. Photo: Michael MacSweeney

SINN Féin delivered a seismic electoral victory in Cork South Central as Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire won 25pc of the vote and outpolled both Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Such was the scale of the Sinn Féin vote that party strategists were left to rue the decision not to run a second candidate.

"It is a very proud day both for me and for Sinn Féin in Cork," Mr Ó Laoghaire said.

"It is proof that voters want change and want to see Sinn Féin in government.

"It is a message that everyone now needs to recognise and understand."

Mr Ó Laoghaire exceeded the 11,429 quota by a whopping 2,600 votes and was elected on the first count with a vote of 14,057.

Despite the remarkable surge in Sinn Féin's vote, the four-seat constituency proved 'as you were' from 2016.

Mr Ó Laoghaire, Mr Martin (11,023 votes), Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath (9,236 votes) and Mr Coveney (9,327 votes) were all returned to the 33rd Dáil on subsequent counts.

Mr Martin defended his own party's performance in the constituency which also returned Mr McGrath, which he said, "given everything that's happened today, is a very, very solid performance".

Mr Coveney said it had been "a challenging election" for Fine Gael, marked by a strong surge in support for the party over the campaign's last days.

"I think the importance of stability in Ireland for Brexit and of maintaining and protecting Ireland's economy registered with people," he said. However, he acknowledged that Fine Gael had lessons to learn in terms of delivering on voter demands for public services.

He also said the political infrastructure in Ireland had fractured, and the task of forming a government would be complicated.

The Fine Gael deputy leader secured more than 16pc of the first-preference vote - though his party running mate, Senator Jerry Buttimer, a former Cork South Central TD, saw his vote slip to below 5pc, or 2,828 votes.

Aside from Sinn Féin, the surprise of the election was the Green Party securing almost 10pc of the vote in a constituency where it once held a seat with Councillor Dan Boyle.

Councillor Laura Bogue (5,379 first-preference votes) lost out in a battle for the fourth and final seat with Mr McGrath, being eliminated on the eighth count.

She said the election underlined the growing awareness of "green issues".

Irish Independent