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Donegal: Sinn Féin duo hoover up 45pc of total vote to leave rivals scrambling

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Easy win: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Pádraig MacLochlainn at the count centre in Letterkenny

Easy win: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Pádraig MacLochlainn at the count centre in Letterkenny

Easy win: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Pádraig MacLochlainn at the count centre in Letterkenny

It was once one of the most predictable and conservative constituencies.

But this time, Donegal produced a nail-biting election count which went down to the wire with veteran Fianna Fáil TD and former minister Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher finally coming up short.

The end result, two Sinn Féin, one Independent TD, one Fine Gael and one Fianna Fail, has proven that the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael political structure that has dominated the constituency for decades seems well and truly over.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn emphatically topped the poll.

They got elected on the first count with a cumulative surplus which almost amounted to a third quota.

The four outgoing TDs were left in a dogfight for the remaining three seats.

It was the elimination of maverick Independent candidate John O'Donnell and the distribution of his 7,000-plus votes that decided the fate of the remaining candidates.

And in keeping with the unpredictable nature of this General Election, the typical patterns of geography and old party allegiance were not followed.

In the end, it was Mr Gallagher, once the party's top vote-getter, who lost out, with running-mate Charlie McConalogue, education minister Joe McHugh and Independent Thomas Pringle getting the final three seats without reaching quota.

Overall, the Fianna Fáil vote has dropped 10pc since the last election, and Fine Gael's by 1pc.

Despite his vote dropping by 1pc, Mr Pringle's transfer irresistibility ensured he took the third seat.

Sinn Féin's vote, meanwhile, has risen by 18pc, with the party now commanding 45pc of the overall vote in the county. The irony was not lost on giant poll-topper Mr Doherty, who netted a huge share of first-preference votes in his native county.

"We are overwhelmed with the level of support we've got and the irony now is that our surplus will maybe elect some of the people that said they don't want to talk to us," he laughed as the tallies came in on Sunday.

Speaking after his election, Mr Doherty said it was important that the voices of so many ordinary people would now be heard on the corridors of power for the first time. "We need to make sure this happens. Now it's time for ordinary citizens to have their voices heard at the cabinet table," he said.

Progressive-left TDs now occupy three of the five seats in Donegal.

Irish Independent