Government parties suffer heavy election losses

 

Counting of local election votes continues today with a trend emerging of heavy losses for both Government parties.

Fianna Fáil are being particularly badly hit in urban areas and the Green Party has lost all its city and county council seats in Dublin, where its TDs are based. Outside the capital the Greens have lost their seat in Carlow and one in Galway City.

The Labour Party has polled strongly in the capital and will be the biggest party in the Dubln local authority areas.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey of Fianna Fáil said this morning it was a "very very bad result" for the Government. He said the local election was "fought on the basis and lost on the basis of the very difficult decisions" that the Government had to make in relation to the economic crisis.

The counting of votes to elect 1,627 councillors in 114 local councils started yesterday at 9am and continued throughout the day and into yesterday evening. It started again this morning at 9am.

Fine Gael has emerged as the largest party in local government with 31 per cent of first preference votes. Fianna Fáil has been pushed into second place with 23 per cent of first preference votes. Labour has 17 per cent of the vote, Others also have 17 per cent, while Sinn Féin is on 7 per cent and the Green Party on 2 per cent.

The heavy losses suffered by Fianna Fáil and the Greens, coupled with the strong showing for Fine Gael prompted Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday to announce a motion of no confidence in the Government. MEanwhile, Green Party leader John Gormley said the party would meet next week to discuss a review of the programme for Government, although he said any withdrawal from Coalition was not on the agenda for the meeting of the party's executive.

Mr Kenny said he would move the motion in the Dail on Tuesday. Speaking after George Lee took the seat for Fine Gael in the Dublin South byelection Mr Kenny said Fine Gael had won the election. ¿The people have voted for us, and this now makes us the largest party with the largest number of seats,¿ Mr Kenny said at a press conference. He said the Government neither had the credibility nor the authority or mandate to continue in office.

"That's why next Tuesday I will move a motion of no confidence in this Government," he said.

Fianna Fáil's Shay Brennan, who lost out to Mr Lee, said yesterday "Obviously a lot of people gave straight number ones for George Lee. In my mind it was very much a protest vote," he added.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the "tide of public opinion" was against Fianna Fáil. Mr Cowen described the results as "disappointing" and "poor" by the party's standards.

"Sometimes in politics when you take necessary decisions you have to put the country first even if it means the short term political popularity of a party is affected," Mr Cowen said. "We have to continue with the work that we have set out and that is to fix this recession to put this country back on the road and to use the mandate that we have until 2012 to do so," the Taoiseach added.

The former leader of the Green Party Trevor Sargent said the "best hope for the country is for the Greens to remain in Government".

Speaking after an exit poll was released yesterday, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said: "This is not nice and it's not nice for our people. (But) we are in this for the five years and we will continue."