Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden has comfortable byelection win in Longford-Westmeath

Sinn Féin soars while Labour vote falls

Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden comfortably held the Longford-Westmeath seat left vacant by the death of her sister Nicky this year.

Her election was in little doubt from early on Saturday when the first boxes were opened at the count centre at St Dominic’s GAA club in Keenagh, Co Longford.

She polled consistently well throughout the constituency, and was finally elected on the seventh count early on Sunday morning when she easily outpolled the remaining candidate, Fianna Fáil's Aengus O'Rourke, by 20,058 votes to 14,581 votes. Sister's death McFadden, outgoing mayor of Athlone, described her victory as a "bitter sweet'' moment given her sister's death.

She said her priorities as a new TD would be the creation of jobs for Longford-Westmeath. “The economy is recovering but people are not feeling it as they should. It seems to me that the recovery is happening more in Dublin than down the country.’’


A notable feature of the byelection was the strong performance by Sinn Féin candidate Paul Hogan who had accumulated 11,254 votes when he was eliminated on the sixth count. Hogan, who noted that his party's vote had increased 75 per cent, clearly signalled his intention to be a strong contender for a seat in the four-seater at the next general election.

Labour's fortunes, meanwhile, were in decline, mirroring the national trend. The party's candidate, Denis Leonard, a late entrant to the contest, secured 3,290 first preferences and was eliminated on the second count. Following However, that should not suggest that the base of sitting Labour TD Willie Penrose is vulnerable given that his following is largely personal.

Mr O’Rourke, son of former minister Mary O’Rourke and part of the extended Lenihan political dynasty, will clearly be throwing his hat in the ring for a party nomination at the next general election.

He said he was not concerned about the rise in Sinn Féin support. “I am more concerned about my own and Fianna Fáil’s position. We are going to continue to challenge the Government for the rest of its lifetime as we have done up to this.’’

O’Rourke said people felt bewildered and betrayed by the Government because of broken promises and U-turns.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times