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Meath East & Meath West: Fianna Fail wiped out in stronghold

FIANNA Fail failed to win a seat in its Meath heartland for the first time in the party's history as Fine Gael won four out of six seats.

Long considered a Fianna Fail stronghold, the last hopes of taking a seat were dashed on Saturday evening, when Thomas Byrne was eliminated on the fourth count in Meath East.

Labour's Dominic Hannigan and Fine Gael's Regina Doherty and Shane McEntee took the three seats.

Mr Byrne said that the decision by former junior minister Mary Wallace not to seek re-election dented his chances, as he did not have enough time to win the votes of her former supporters.

In total, Fianna Fail's vote fell by 24.7pc since the 2007 election in the constituency.

The campaign strategy of highlighting developments in Meath West over the last 14 years was not enough to save the party.

The decision not to run by outgoing former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who topped the polls there in 2007, proved fatal to the party.

The party's support has fallen by a staggering 33.5pc in the constituency.

Labour and Fine Gael tallymen spread the word in the count centre on Saturday morning that the era of Fianna Fail domination looked over.

The predictions were borne out when Shane Cassells was the first of the party's candidates to be eliminated. Hopes that incumbent Johnny Brady could hold on were dashed when it was confirmed that, despite a hefty transfer from his running mate, he would not be elected.

Fine Gael's Catherine Yore also lost out, but her transfers were enough to carry colleague Ray Butler over the line.

Sinn Fein's Peader Toibin, who took the second seat, said his party had benefited from people's anger.

"We polled well in areas that Sinn Fein were not historically strong in and we have taken a large number of Fianna Fail votes," he said.

Fine Gael's Damien English, who topped the poll, said his focus would now shift to the renegotiation of the EU bailout bill as a member of the Fine Gael finance team.

Irish Independent Supplement