Wednesday 13 December 2017

History littered with winners who lose out next time around

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty won't have long to celebrate his win in the Donegal South West by-election before preparations will have to begin for a general election.

The party brand name hasn't won a by-election since 1925, when the post-Civil War version of the organisation was led by Eamon de Valera -- so the result will be a big boost for Sinn Fein.

But history shows it's a folly for parties to read too much significance into by-election victories.

Just ask Fine Gael's Michael Noonan.

The party won the only by-election held during his term as leader, when Tom Hayes was elected in Tipperary South in June 2001. Within 12 months, the party lost 20 seats in the 2002 General Election.

If Mr Doherty doesn't hold his seat in the general election -- presumably to be held early next year -- he will be one of the shortest serving TDs in the history of the State.

And there is also a pattern within the past 20 years of TDs from outside the main parties winning by-elections and then losing their seat at the next general election.


Democratic Left's Eric Byrne and Kathleen Lynch -- now both in the Labour Party -- won seats in Dublin South Central and Cork North Central in 1994.

Their party subsequently entered Government with Fine Gael and Labour, as part of John Bruton's Rainbow coalition.

But Mr Byrne and Ms Lynch then lost their seats in the 2007 General Election.

Independent Catherine Murphy suffered a similar fate when she replaced former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy in the Kildare North by-election of March 2005.

However, Fianna Fail took the seat back in 2007.

On the plus side for Mr Doherty, there is also a long track record in the past 50 years of TDs who win by-elections staying in the Dail for lengthy unbroken periods.

They include Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, European Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, PD founder Des O'Malley, Fine Gael's Michael Ring, Paddy Cooney and John Donnellan, and Fianna Fail's Noel Treacy and Sylvester Barrett.

Irish Independent

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