McEntee elected in Meath East byelection as Labour vote collapses
Daughter of late TD reaches 11,473 votes after third and final count
Helen McEntee, the Fine Gael candidate who has been elected in the Meath East byelection, arriving at the Ashbourne count centre today. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee has taken the seat vacated in the constituency of Meath East by the death of her father Shane in December.
On the third and final count, FF's Thomas Byrne got 1,476 votes to bring him to 9,582 and Ms McEntee 1,926 to get to 11,473, enough to get her elected.
On second count, Ms McEntee had gained 191 votes to reach 9,547 and FF's Thomas Byrne 104 to 8,106.
First count results were announced just before 4pm.
Ms McEntee received 9,356 first preference votes, Thomas Byrne (FF) 8,002, Darren O’Rourke (SF) 3,165, Ben Gilroy (DDI) 1,568, and Eoin Holmes (Lab) 1,112.
Candidates excluded were Independent Charlie Keddy (110); Independent Mick Martin (190); Workers Party’s Seamus McDonagh (263); Independent Gerard Michael O'Brien (73); Ind Jim Tallon (47) and Green Party’s Sean Ó Buachalla (423).
Some laughter greeted the announcement of Labour candidate Eoin Holmes’s 1,112 first preferences.
The total electorate was 64,164 while the total number votes cast was 24, 568. There were 259 spoiled or invalid votes, while the quota for election is 12,155. Turnout was just over 38 per cent.
Ms McEntee has lead since counting began this morning, while the collapse of the Labour vote has also been apparent since this morning.
Labour topped the poll in Meath East in 2011, with its candidate Dominic Hannigan receiving 8,994 first preference votes (more than 21 per cent of the total), compared to Mr Holmes 4.5 per cent today.
Minister for Communications and Labour TD Pat Rabbitte reacted to the party’s very poor showing in the polls earlier.
It seemed that Labour has “taken the brunt of the negative reaction”, he said. “Labour voters didn't come out. They are making a protest. We have to listen to what they're saying, but we inherited the biggest mess left to a government since 1922,” he told RTÉ radio.Fine Gael TD Damien English told RTÉ Ms McEntee “put in a great campaign. In areas that weren't McEntee strongholds, she went out and got votes. It's a major plus for the McEntee family and the Fine Gael family.”
On the strong performance for Mr Byrne, Fianna Fáil TD Daragh O’Brien said: “This was not just a local vote. We ran a constructive and positive campaign. It's not about Fianna Fáil getting back into Government. But there was a lesson for Labour here - that you can't promise the sun, moon and stars and then break every promise.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he did not think Fine Gael could “take succour” from the vote, given the circumstances in which the byelection took place.
The result had been brought about through the death of former minister of state Shane McEntee, he said.
“We’re very, very, very satisfied with the vote that we took. This is the largest vote that we have ever taken in this constituency,” Mr Adams said.