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Bittersweet win for Helen as Gilmore faces party turmoil

FINE Gael's new golden girl Helen McEntee will have to wait another 11 days before she can take up her seat in the Dail.

She celebrated with her family in Meath last night, but plans to begin work on the projects close to her late father will have to wait.

The by-election victory came as a boost for Enda Kenny just as Leinster House took its Easter recess.

He arrived at the count in Ashbourne in time to hear Ms McEntee elected on the third count, ahead of Fianna Fail's Thomas Byrne.

"She is her father's daughter and will not let down the people of Meath East," Mr Kenny said.

In her acceptance speech, McEntee (26) paid an emotional tribute to her deceased father.

"Today, obviously we are here because our darling Shane, our Dad, is not," she said. "He was an amazing person, an amazing TD and If I am half the TD he was I'll be happy," she said to loud cheers.

Cabinet Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who ran Ms McEntee's campaign, told the Herald that the win was "bittersweet" after the death of Helen's father, Shane.

"Of course it's bittersweet. It's a day of mixed emotions. It's very, very mixed emotions and we're all very conscious of that. She came across as a very strong candidate in her own right and of course people respected Shane's legacy," Minister Fitzgerald said.

Ms McEntee's closest rival, Thomas Byrne, who polled second with some 34pc of the vote, thanked those who remained loyal to Fianna Fail.

"We've increased our vote from 19pc. That's a huge increase for me and I'm delighted with that," Mr Byrne said.

"It's the largest that we have got in years. I want to thank all those who came out and voted for me and I wish Helen all the very best."

FF leader Micheal Martin said the by-election was fought under difficult circumstances given the death of Ms McEntee's father.



But he said one message to all parties was that people feel disillusioned and there was an obligation on them all to respond and reflect those concerns in Leinster House.

None of the candidates reached the quota of 12,155 votes in the first count. Sinn Fein's Darren O'Rourke finished in third with 13.02pc; Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland was next with 6.45pc and Labour's Eoin Holmes trailed in fifth.

Mr Gilroy said it was an "extraordinary result" for the new party.

Direct Democracy Ireland says its aim is to "reintroduce the system of participatory democracy which will entail the constitutional right of the sovereign people of Ireland to call general elections and by-elections".

Six candidates were excluded after the first count – Independent Charlie Keddy, Independent Mick Martin, Workers' Party Seamus McDonagh, Independent Gerard O'Brien, Green Party Sean O Buachalla and Independent Jim Tallon.

Meath East returning officer Mary O'Malley said 24,309 valid votes were cast, from a total electorate of 64,164.