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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 21, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    The Hills of Donegal

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The Donegal South-West byelection is on Thursday next. It has been relegated from the main headlines because of the bailout crisis and the impending four-year plan but it is important nevertheless for the survival of this government and the passing of the  Budget. The unpopularity of the  Government must be weighed against the fact that FF had two quotas here in 2007. Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein is likely to get a very high first preference vote but will doubtless need transfers to get him over the line. Another point is that if the Labour candidate gets ahead of Fine Gael it  could cause trouble in the main opposition party. A piece I did which appeared in last Saturday’s paper examines the issues.

    SF is bookies’ favourite but Donegal may still have soft spot for Fianna Fáil

    DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN, Political Correspondent

    Sat, Nov 20, 2010

    DONEGAL SOUTH WEST BYELECTION: CONSTITUENCY PROFILE: THE HEADLINE in a local newspaper sums it up: “Eyes of nation on Donegal South West”.

    The timeless hills of  Tyrconnell are alive with the sound of canvassing. Fianna Fáil alone claims to have had at least 700 weekend canvassers out knocking on doors, and other election teams are pulling out all the stops as well.

    The weather has ranged from violently stormy to deceptively placid, rivalling the political scene in its unpredictability. As he made his way through the driving rain and wind with Senator Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams quipped: “We’re looking for floating voters.” There are six candidates, four for the main parties and two Independents.

    The vacancy was created by the election of  Fianna Fáil’s Pat the Cope Gallagher as a member of the European Parliament in June last year. In his place, the party has chosen the hungry and energetic Senator Brian Ó Dómhnaill from Gortahork who has been canvassing Donegal South West for votes the way prospectors used to scour the Yukon for gold nuggets.

    In normal times, there would be no argument as to who would win this contest. Gallagher and his Fianna Fáil colleague Mary Coughlan between them scooped up 20,136 first preferences in the 2007 general election, the equivalent of two quotas, or 51 per cent, and took two of the constituency’s three seats.

    The other winner was Fine Gael’s Dinny McGinley, who secured 9,167 first-preference votes (23 per cent). Although he failed to take a seat, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty garnered 8,462 first preferences (21 per cent) and has been the bookies’ favourite to win this byelection.

    The Fine Gael candidate this time is Ballyshannon-based Barry O’Neill, a radio sports producer with RTÉ who has a strong GAA background. His main support will come from the southern end of the constituency.

    Labour’s standard bearer is Frank McBrearty from Raphoe in the northeast of the constituency. In 1996, he was wrongly arrested on a trumped-up charge of murder in a Garda corruption scandal and was subsequently awarded €1.5 million in damages.

    Independent candidate Thomas Pringle is a former Sinn Féin member and can be expected to take first preferences from Doherty, although he should return a proportion of them once he is eliminated. The other Independent is hotelier Ann Sweeney from Dunfanaghy.

    In the initial aftermath of his successful High Court challenge forcing the Government to hold the byelection after long-fingering it for 17 months, Doherty was seen as the frontrunner by a fair distance.

    The mood began to change somewhat with the Fianna Fáil selection convention at the Highlands Hotel in Glenties on the following Sunday. Despite highly inclement weather, the attendance was reported at more than 500 and there is no evidence that it was packed with “blow-ins”.

    Even party organisers say they were taken aback by the size of the crowd, particularly since Ó Domhnaill was a shoo-in for the nomination in any case. There was a spring in Fianna Fáil’s step after that and a feeling that the fat could be pulled out of the fire.

    However, Senator Doherty is seen as a very strong candidate, free from the whiff of sulphur that accompanies Sinn Féin contenders in certain other places, although he is faced with a  major task to prove his party is no longer “transfer-repellent”.

    Memories of the Troubles are fresh and the significant Protestant minority in the constituency are unlikely to provide comfort to Sinn Féin.

    Dinny McGinley had a tough fight to hold off the challenge from Doherty in the general election. They are both from Gweedore and if Doherty wins the seat it could make things very difficult for Fine Gael in the general elections.

    But if it is hard to see many Fine Gael transfers going to Doherty, he would do well once Pringle and McBrearty were eliminated. A RedC poll for Paddy Power bookmakers put Doherty at 40 per cent, followed by Ó Domhnaill at 19 per cent, O’Neill at 15 per cent and McBrearty at 14 per cent.

    The view of most non-aligned observers is that Doherty will dislodge the Soldiers of Destiny in one of their greatest strongholds. Other longtime students of the political scene were saying — prior to the dramatic arrival of the EU-IMF delegation in Dublin — that, despite the Government’s deep unpopularity Fianna Fáil should just about retain this seat. But Doherty is very much the frontrunner at this stage.

    The ultimate decision lies in the hands of the Donegal voters, who are notoriously enigmatic and not necessarily swayed by opinion in the rest of the State, as they showed by being the only county to reject the Lisbon Treaty in the second referendum.

    © 2010 The Irish Times

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    • barberaO says:

      WAY TO GO! BRIAN Ó

      VOTE NO 1 Brian Ó Dómhnaill from Gortahork

      KEEP THE FFAITH DONEGAL !!

    • robespierre says:

      All seems pointless but thank goodness the lentil munchers have had the decency to see what Zanu-FF cannot. I hope with every fibre of my being that FF are destroyed in January. Any seat held is a betrayal of what it means to be Irish. Sadly, so many people in the country are so in favour of stroke-pulling that I could easily see FF still getting as many as forty seats.

    • deprofundis says:

      ‘The Partys over
      It’s time to call it a day
      They’ve burst your pretty balloon (well actually you did it yourself!)
      It’s time to wind up this masquerade
      Just make your mind up.. the piper must be paid..’

    • deprofundis says:

      I hope you’re going to have words with Martyn Turner about the cartoon on the front of today’s paper…how very vulgar…using the FF word indeed!

    • muckduff says:

      The donegal by-election is important in one detail, that is sending out a clear message to FF that they are no longer the government of the people and must go before Christmas. Any vote for FF is a stab to the heart of the nation. All I want for christmas is a general election!!

    • Paddy O says:

      @ 3 & 4 deprofundis
      The people certainly will be crying “out of the depths” if FG and God between us and all harm Labour get their clammy little mitts on the controls too soon. Should such a scenario come to pass, I predict that in less than six/seven months time the people will be tearing out their hair and renting their garments when they realize the utter stupidity of changing over to what will come to be seen as a bunch of ill-equipped nincompoops and troglodytes since they would not have had the time to get up to speed with all the ins and outs and implications of the current GLOBAL financial crisis and especially as that affects us. The present government (unfortunately now without the Greens) but whittled down to men and women of the highest integrity is so totally focused and so up to speed with the global/national politico-economic situation that only they will be able to get the best deal for the country and bring us through the crisis; imo they should have stayed until the 2012 due election date when the crisis will have somewhat abated and the people could decide if they want a change of government. An election at this time especially before the budget is passed will solve absolutely nothing and in fact will prove chaotic for the country. It will not bring stability and the only thing that will calm the markets now at this crucial time is if all the opposition parties SHUT THE FE*K UP and get the budget passed. For the sake of the future of this country, however, and in a bid to calm the opposition from doing further damage to the country’s international image by their political posturing which is projecting an image of political turmoil and instability in this country and thus upsetting the markets, etc. the Taoiseach has called an election for when after the budget has been passed. Fair dues.

    • Nicola says:

      If the people of this country are really stupid enough to vote back in those incompetent, discredited idiots in Fianna Fail – I am leaving this country for good.

    • de profundis says:

      ‘Northmen Southmen comrades all
      Dublin Belfast Cork and Donegal…’
      PaddyO
      Calm down before you do yourself a mischief…!

    • Paddy O says:

      @ 7 — Converesly, if the people of this country are really stupid enough to vote in “pie in the sky policies” FG and God between us and all harm “no policies” Labour, then I shall stay exactly where I am but will take no delight in casting a very cold, wry, cynical, sardonic eye on what will be an abysmal outcome on account of the people’s foolhardiness.

      Fine Gael and Labour need at least a year to come to grips with the current global/national politico-economic situation and come up with some viable alternatives, which, in effect, will only amount to being able to play swings and roundabouts with sweet fe*ck all for the next four years at least. Brian Lenihan is a genius, imo, and Richard Bruton comes nowhere close to this man’s ability and the country needs him now more than ever.

      At this precise moment, however, I am slightly more concerned about “viral infections” and Stuxnet. Intuition tells me that the threat posed by our seemingly insurmountable economic problems will soon pale into insignificance on account of a much bigger threat.

      @ 8 – de profundis
      It galls me Madam de la Grande Bouche that you dare to use the title of one of the world’s most beautiful Psalms (Psalm 130) as your latest pseudonym.

    • Paddy O says:

      RTE & TV3, of course, are spinning it all skew-ways – the Donegal SW by-election result, that is. Anger at impending austerity measures resulted in a victory for Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein, since the electorate involved were clearly polarized into very surprisingly and very interestingly a less than 50/50 divide between FF and FG, with FF ahead of FG; and given the unbelievable politico-economic drama of the last while and the huge media effort to demote FF and promote FG, that is the very big story – that FF did so well. Pearse Doherty was very lucky and opportunely placed, since his candidacy provided a radical alternative for that element/percentage of an angry electorate that would rather give their vote to Buffy the Vampire Slayer rather than to the government they are angry with or an opposition that they have no faith in. It also helped that Pearse Doherty is a fine looking and intelligent young man, very politically aware and who speaks Irish beautifully and naturally………and his two young sons (as seen on tv at election results) are absolutely delightful. Good luck to Pearse Doherty and congratulations.

    • de profundis says:

      I think I have made it very clear I care not a jot what you think and your comments are unwelcome…as I have told the Irish Times that if they continue to publish your bilious comments then they will be held responsible ‘Paddy me arse’…
      To the victors the spoils….CONGRATULATIONS to SINN FEIN…on their Party Pearse…ho ho…!
      One Down…You ain’t seen nothing yet…!
      However Pearse might want to hightail it back to the High Court and Injunct this Govt without a mandate from signing off on this bailout…
      And if I might say so Mr Adams is looking fierce well and gettin’ better looking with age as he grows in gravitas and his elder statesman role…on his way to the Aras in time for 2016…

    • de profundis says:

      Moderator
      I would be grateful if you would remove the gratuitously inappropriate personally offensive off topic comment posted @9 by barbera/minXie et al in her latest gender conflicted identity in accordance with your publishing criteria.

    • Paddy O says:

      @11 & 12

      FOMCL

      PS Moderators have removed several of your revolting comments at my request

    • Paddy O says:

      Moderator
      I would be grateful if you would remove the gratuitously inappropriate personally offensive off topic comment posted @ 8 by de profundis/cockney rebel/blimey/ruby et al in her latest abysmal pseud/dentity in accordance with your publishing criteria. You do realize that Deaglán “moderates” his own blog — and fair play to him for posting your most offensive comments – even directed at himself.
      Anyway, I forgive you – you’ve obviously got issues……..


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