Thursday 22 February 2018

Burton on the brink following Labour collapse

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

DUBLIN West could be left with no Labour TD after the next general election following a catastrophic collapse of the party's vote.

While party sources never expected candidate Loraine Mulligan to be in the running, they were quietly confident that her vote would be maximised by the staunch support of sitting minister Joan Burton.

However, Ms Mulligan finished in a miserable seventh place prompting fears that Ns Burton herself will be fighting for her seat at the next general election.

The Labour Party secured just short of 30pc of the vote in the 2011 general election which almost ensured the election of Patrick Nulty alongside Ms Burton.

But Mr Nulty went on to top the poll just over eight months later following a by-election prompted by the death of former minister Brian Lenihan.

Labour's vote in Dublin West has now shrunk. Ms Mulligan, the party chairperson, secured just over 1,500 first preference votes and was outpolled by the Green Party's Roderic O'Gorman.

Sources in the party say she was privately "devastated" at the result which came during a dismal day for the party nationwide.

But others expressed sympathy for the SIPTU worker and pointed out that she was "parachuted" into Dublin West because the party had no other viable candidate who was willing to run.

While Ms Burton will have her own support base to rely on, a number of Labour figures last night suggested that she could be at risk.

"Not even Joan Burton is safe on that result. It was a disaster," said one TD close to Ms Burton.

The by-election in the end was comfortably won by Socialist candidate Ruth Coppinger, despite a strong showing by Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly.

Ms Coppinger's party has now doubled its representation in Dublin West following the school teacher's impressive victory.

She finished with well over 12,000 votes in what also represents a significant achievement for Socialist TD Joe Higgins.

At one point during the campaign, Mr Higgins launched a scathing attack on Sinn Fein over an election leaflet which claimed it was the "leading party of the left".

But the by-election itself was very much a victory for the left wing parties who attracted significant numbers of new voters due to their opposition to the water charges and property tax.

Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly topped the poll in first preferences but he did not pick up the transfers required to be in the mix at the final stages.

Nonetheless, Mr Donnelly's 20pc of the first preference vote represents a significant achievement for a man who lost his council seat just five years ago.

There was a strong Sinn Fein contingent in the count centre in RDS awaiting party leader Gerry Adams and Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Mr Adams said Mr Donnelly is now well-placed to compete for a seat at the next general election, which he said should now happen immediately.

For Fianna Fáil, it was another hard luck story for well-known councillor David McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness's vote always remained short of his main rival Ruth Coppinger who picked up significant transfers from Independent candidate David Hall and Mr Donnelly.

"I'm disappointed, of course I am, because I want to be in the Dail to fight for the people of Dublin West," Mr McGuinnness told the Irish Independent.

But similar to the Sinn Fein candidate, Mr McGuinness is likely to win a seat at the next general election.

Fine Gael must now decide whether the party's candidate Eamonn Coghlan should go in front of the electorate again following his poor performance in this campaign.

Despite his celebrity status, Mr Coghlan struggled to connect with an electorate that has become extremely disenchanted with the government parties in Dublin West.

Online Editors

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