Sinn Féin stands ‘absolutely over decision’ to run presidential candidate

McDonald defends running Liadh Ní Riada despite poor result in exit poll and early tallies

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it is "no surprise" that the anti-Traveller comments made by presidential candidate Peter Casey resonated with some voters.


Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald says the party stands “absolutley” over its decision to contest the presidential election.

The party’s candidate, MEP Liadh Ní Riada is polling poorly in early tallies and an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll on Friday night saw her achieve just 8 per cent of the vote.

The exit poll projects that President Michael D Higgins will take 56 per cent of the vote comfortably enough to win the election on the first count.

The exit poll sees Peter Casey on 21 per cent; Seán Gallagher on 7 per cent; Joan Freeman on 6 per cent and Gavin Duffy on 2 per cent.

Ms McDonald said she was disappointed with the result and wished they had polled more strongly but said “I stand absolutely over our decision”.

She said the presidency should not be 14 years “without punctuation” for a role that costs the State €8 million.

“This was an election for president,”she told RTÉ. “We understood as a political party we should field a candidate.”

Ms McDonald criticised other parties for abdicating their responsibilities as leaders and for “acting as observers”

She said that people do not approach the presidential election along party lines, that people feel they are voting for individuals.

Asked about the implications for her leadership she said: “I am the leader of our party. I’ll lead on.”

‘Lazy analysis’

The party’s Cork North-Central TD Jonathan O’Brien played down the relative success of newcomer Mr Casey, suggesting that he had taken votes from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael supporters as well as Sinn Féin voters to outpoll the party in some working-class areas of Cork.

Mr O’Brien acknowledged that Mr Casey had beaten Ms Ní Riada in working class areas such as Gurrranabraher, Farranree, Churchfield and the Glen where the party had performed very strongly in the last general election.

“I think a lazy analysis will be that Casey took our vote in working class areas but I don’t think you can extrapolate that from tallies because there was no Fine Gael candidate and there was no Fianna Fáil candidate so obviously their votes went somewhere else as well,” he said.

“But it’s pretty clear that we didn’t get our vote out and that is something we need to reflect on but I don’t think it’s as simple as saying Casey took our votes in working class areas - our vote didn’t come out. I’ve no doubt some of it went to Michael D as well because he is a popular president.