Tánaiste eliminated in Donegal SW

Sat, Feb 26, 2011, 00:00

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan became one of the highest profile Fianna Fáil casualties of the general election when she was eliminated on the fourth count in the Donegal South West constituency last night.

Earlier the Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty was comfortably elected on the first count having won the seat in a byelection last November. He won 14,262 first preferences, almost a third of the vote.

In the fifth and final count Fine Gael's Dinny McGinley was elected over the quota while independent Thomas Pringle, a 43-year-old manager of a water treatment plant in Killybegs, was elected under the quota.

Earlier as Mr Doherty's large surplus was distributed at the St John Bosco count centre in Donegal Town after the first count it became clear that there was a serious question mark over whether Ms Coughlan could survive.

She was narrowly ahead of her Fianna Fáil running mate Brian Ó Domhnaill in the subsequent two counts giving her an outside chance of scraping through for the third seat on his transfers. But in the fourth count - on the transfer of the votes of eliminated candidates Frank McBrearty for Labour and independent Stephen McCahill - Mr Ó Domhnaill won a total of 5,724 votes to Ms Coughlan's 5,655.

As Mr Ó Domhnaill was ahead of her by 69 votes Ms Coughlan was eliminated. She earlier turned up at the count centre but left before the fourth count, which saw her lose her seat.

Before leaving she told reporters that it was a gamble running two Fianna Fáil candidates. "It was a risk, there is no two ways about it," she said. She added that the total of 9,745 first preferences for the two Fianna Fáil candidates was higher than the 8,589 first preferences won by Fine Gael outgoing TD Dinny McGinley.

She indicated that if she lost her seat she would take time to consider her political future. "I have not made any decisions about my political career," she said. Generally she believed Fianna Fáil could "rise from the ashes".

Mr Doherty won 3,446 votes in excess of the quota of 10,816 votes. Mr McGinley, Fine Gael's sole candidate in the constituency, gained the second highest number of first preferences. After the fourth count, he was just over 200 votes short of the quota of 10,816 votes, and was elected on the fifth count with a total of 11,369 votes..

As the counters began distributing Ms Coughlan's transfers from her vote of 5,655 the final battle appeared to be between Mr Ó Domhnaill with 5,724 votes and Mr Pringle on 9,139 votes. While Ms Coughlan was expected to transfer well to her running mate the advantage decidedly was with Mr Pringle.

He did not reach the quota but the Killybegs man was elected with 1,175 votes, while Mr Ó Domhnaill with 8,834 votes lost out.

Frank McBrearty for Labour won 2,209 votes, considerably less than the 3,366 he polled in the by-election. Independent Stephen McCahill from Ardara won 1,831 votes. Green Party candidate John Duffy won 527 votes while the third independent candidate Ann Sweeney took 255 votes.