Fianna Fail spurred by victory as Coalition parties lose vote share
FIANNA Fail will increase its attacks on the Government's failure to protect struggling homeowners and the elderly after taking victory at the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election.
Party strategists will also heap pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to publish the Fennelly Report into allegations he sacked former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
The party believe it is leading the way in terms of preparations for a general election and will have their full ticket of candidates selected within months.
Preparation of the party's election manifesto is at an advanced stage and policy development is ongoing in some areas.
Senior party figures were reluctant to "overstate" Bobby Aylward's win in the early hours of Sunday morning but said they were pleased with the outcome.
Mr Aylward (inset right) took 28pc of the first preference votes to take former Environment Minister Phil Hogan's seat in the Dail.
However, this is the same vote the party took in the constituency at the last general election, which will fuel claims Fianna Fail's support is stagnant and has not improved on the disastrous 2011 election.
Mr Aywlard, who was a backbench TD in both Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen-led Fianna Fail governments, beat Fine Gael candidate David Fitzgerald by almost 5,000 votes.
The Fianna Fail politician also picked up a healthy number of transfers from all the main parties, including Sinn Fein candidate Kathleen Funchion who took 16pc of the first vote.
Speaking at the count centre in Kilkenny on Saturday, party leader Micheal Martin said he hoped the win will "galvanise" Fianna Fail in the run into the general election, which he said could be in six months
"By-elections by definition are different to elections, but nonetheless it illustrates Fianna Fail has the capacity to command a significant proportion of the vote in any electoral contest," Mr Martin said.
Lucinda Creighton's Renua put a huge dent in Fine Gael's support at the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election.
Ms Creighton's former party secured three seats and a massive 39pc of the vote in the 2011 General Election.
However, Fine Gael candidate David Fitzgerald failed to retain EU Commissioner Phil Hogan's seat and only received 21pc of the first preference votes last weekend.
Labour's support also plummeted from 16pc four years ago, with candidate Willie Quinn receiving just 7pc of the vote when the ballots were counted.
The support for the Government parties haemorrhaged to Renua, Sinn Fein and other smaller left-wing groups.
Sinn Fein's support jumped from 9.5pc to 16pc.
Renua's first election candidate Pat McKee, who defected from Fianna Fail, took 9.5pc of the overall vote.
Party sources suggested this came from all the established parties but the main chunk of the vote came from Fine Gael.
Andrew Lynch: Page 14