Friday 13 December 2019

Count finishes for Donegal County Council - FF remains biggest party

* Fianna Fáil remains the biggest party with 11 councillors
* Sinn Fein have jumped from four to nine
* Independents have ten seats
* Fine Gael have six seats
* Labour has just one

Greg Harkin

The state of the parties is as follows:

FINE GAEL took a hammering at the polls across Donegal and lost three high-profile councillors on the local authority despite eight additional seats being available this time around.

Independents and Sinn Fein were the big winners, the independents growing from four seats to ten, whilst Sinn Fein added five new councillors to their existing four.

The first preference vote performance of independents appeared to surprise the main political parties, with more surprises into the early hours as transfers pushed many of them over the line to victory just after 5am.

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.

“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 as an independent.

On the new council, Fianna Fail has 11 councillors (no change) , Sinn Fein nine, up five, and independents ten, up from four.

Fine Gael has six – down three.

The last seat to be filled just after 5am was in Letterkenny where Sinn Fein’s Mick Quinn saw off a strong challenge from another independent Donal Cullen.

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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