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Pearse Doherty takes Donegal South West by-election

Sinn Féin senator Pearse Doherty tops the polls and takes Dáil seat, after beating rivals with huge first preference vote.

Pearse Doherty celebrates with Gerry Adams and party colleagues after winning the by-election in Donegal South West this evening.
Pearse Doherty celebrates with Gerry Adams and party colleagues after winning the by-election in Donegal South West this evening.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Updated at 18:55

SINN FÉIN SENATOR Pearse Doherty has been elected to the Dáil, after topping the poll of yesterday’s by-election in Donegal South West by a massive margin.

Doherty takes the seat despite being slightly short of the quota because it wasn’t possible for the next-placed rival, Fianna Fáil’s Ó’Domhnaill, to match his vote.

The final tally was announced after four counts:

  • Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin): 16,897
  • Brian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fáil): 8,069
  • Barry O’Neill (Fine Gael): 8,182

Speaking to RTÉ’s Six One News shortly before his victory was announced this evening, Doherty said he had clearly laid out his party’s vision for Donegal and the country in the weeks leading up to the election.

He said the result was an overwhelming support for his party and a signal that the government’s “time is up” and they should call a general election.

Strong indication after first count

The first count results, announced shortly after 3pm, were as follows. Turnout was recorded at slightly over 56%:

  • Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin): 13,719
  • Brian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fáil): 7,344
  • Barry O’Neill (Fine Gael): 6,424
  • Thomas Pringle (Independent): 3,438
  • Frank McBrearty (Labour): 3,366
  • Ann Sweeney (Independent): 133

With Sweeney eliminated, the second count saw the distribution of her 133 votes largely benefit Pringle, who took 53, with Doherty claiming 17, O’Neill 18, McBrearty 9 and Ó Domhnaill just 4. With McBrearty still trailing Pringle at that point, he was eliminated and his 3,375 votes are now being redistributed.

Thomas Pringle was eliminated after the third count, and as a former Sinn Féin councillor, the redistribution of his votes was expected to aid Doherty.

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Bookmakers Paddy Power began paying out on a Doherty victory late last night, believing that opposing candidates haven’t done enough to rein in the frontrunner since it commissioned a Red C poll two weeks ago.

That poll showed Doherty commanding a massive lead at 40%, with closest challenger Ó Domhnaill – enjoying less than half that amount, at 19%.

Turnout at the last general election in the constituency, in May 2007, was 66%; the downturn in the turnout has been attributed to the drop in the Fianna Fáil vote, as well as the onset of a full general election in the spring.

Listen back to Pearse Doherty speaking this evening, shortly before being declared the winner >

Additional reporting by Susan Ryan.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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