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FG’s Helen McEntee retains father’s seat in Meath East by-election

McEntee, 26, sees off the challenge of FF’s Thomas Byrne – while Labour licks its wounds after dropping down to fifth place.

Fine Gael's Helen McEntee has won her father's old Dáil seat in this afternoon's Dáil by-election count in Meath East.
Fine Gael's Helen McEntee has won her father's old Dáil seat in this afternoon's Dáil by-election count in Meath East.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated, 18:28

FINE GAEL – and the McEntee family – have retained their Meath East seat in the Dáil, as Helen McEntee won the seat made vacant by her father Shane’s death in December.

McEntee defeated Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne after taking 38.5 per cent of the vote, with 9,356 first preferences – a clear 5.5 per cent ahead of Byrne, a former TD for the constituency, on 8,002 (32.9 per cent).

Sinn Féin’s candidate Darren O’Rourke took a comfortable third place, with 3,165 first preferences – the equivalent of 13 per cent of the total valid poll.

Labour, meanwhile, has had a disastrous election – with its candidate, Councillor Eoin Holmes, managing only 4.5 per cent of the vote, at 1,112 first preferences.

The appalling result for Labour means that the newly-formed Direct Democracy Ireland party, running in its first ever election, has come fourth with 6.5 per cent of the vote through its founder Ben Gilroy, who won 1,568 votes.

The Greens’ Seán Ó Búachalla took 423 first preferences, while the Workers’ Party’s Seamus McDonagh won 263. Independent candidates trailed behind, with Mick Martin on 190, Charlie Keddy on 110, Gerard O’Brien on 73, and Jim Tallon on 47. There were 259 spoilt votes.

While Byrne did not claim success, Fianna Fáil will no doubt be satisfied with their performance – going from 19.6 per cent of the vote in the 2011 general election to 32.9 per cent this time around.

Fine Gael, too, will be happy to have retained the seat – with only a modest fall in its share of the vote in the middle of a difficult Dáil term.

Labour will be desperately disappointed with their showing, however, dropping from 21 to 4.6 per cent in just over two years.

Turnout came in at 38.2 per cent, with a total poll of 24,568.

The six lowest-scoring candidates were eliminated in the first count, with Holmes, Gilroy and O’Rourke eliminated in the second round to leave McEntee with a 1,441-vote lead over her Fianna Fáil rival ahead of the final, third count – too much for Byrne to overcome.

Read: Turnout of just over 30 per cent as polls close in Meath East by-election

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Gavan Reilly

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