Sinn Féin upset pre-election predictions when Cllr Mark Ward topped the poll to win the Dublin Mid-West byelection with a margin of 525 votes ahead of second placed Fine Gael's Cllr Emer Higgins.
Expectation had been of a battle between Cllr Higgins, the party's hope to retain the seat held by former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, and former Green TD and Independent Cllr Paul Gogarty.
But Cllr Ward with 24 per cent of first preference votes stayed ahead through all eight counts, holding off the challenge from Cllr Higgins who retained second place and Cllr Gogarty who did not get enough transfers to challenge in the end.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald described the victory as a good day for working-class people and showed her party is “turning the ship”, after poor performances in the presidential, local and European elections.
She said at the count in Adamstown that Sinn Féin is now in a mode of “turning the ship” and “growing” electoral support.
A major campaign on the ground got the votes out in working-class areas with traditionally low turnouts even though the overall Mid-West turnout was just 26.6 per cent.
But in a swipe at the victorious party Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the campaign had major support from outside the constituency, which Sinn Féin would not be able to repeat in a general election with battles in all constituencies.
The new TD, a 44-year-old behavioural therapist from North Clondalkin, now joins his director of elections Eoin O Broin as the second TD for the constituency. And the dilemma for the party, a problem Ms McDonald said she was “delighted” to have, is whether there are two Sinn Féin seats in the four-seat constituency in a general election.
Cllr Ward said his win showed that “people are sick to the back teeth of austerity politics, of waiting lists in hospitals, waiting for housing and people being put to the pin of their collars with high rents”.
Cllr Higgins, Fine Gael’s only hope of a seat in the byelections, did put in a good first-time performance and while it was a bad day for the party she is likely to win a seat in the general election.
Cllr Gogarty who is likely to win at the general election, said he was relieved to get his €500 deposit back and will also be refunded €8,700 of his €9,000 campaign fund back, which he said came from a credit union loan.
Fianna Fáil’s Shane Moynihan came in a close fourth, just 171 first preference votes behind Cllr Gogarty while Independent Cllr Francis Timmons came in fifth place with 1,299 votes, just five votes ahead of Labour’s Joanna Tuffy and the Green Party Cllr Peter Kavanagh on 1,222. Social Democrats candidate Anne Marie McNally was in eighth position with 788 first preference votes.