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Count centre for the Meath East constituency.
Count centre for the Meath East constituency.

How FG tried and failed to keep two outgoing ministers in one constituency

Doherty’s party colleague Helen McEntee was re-elected.
Feb 10th 2020, 12:29 AM 17,899 9

IT WAS ALWAYS going to be a battle to keep two outgoing ministers in their Dáil seat in Meath East once the Sinn Féin surge started making waves – on the sixth count this evening Regina Doherty became the latest casualty of it. 

The outgoing social protection minister was nowhere to be seen as early morning tallies showed support for the outgoing junior minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, was streets ahead of her.  

By mid-afternoon, her own campaign team itself called it quits and left the Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA club where the count was being held. 

The Sinn Féin surge sweeping in across the country put candidate Darren O’Rourke out in front. 

O’Rourke was first past the post and elected on the second count this evening and follows his previous failed bid for a Dáil seat in 2016. 

The fallout of his success meant Doherty and McEntee were fighting for the remaining two seats that Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne was also eyeing up.

Byrne managed to hold on to his seat meaning just one of the two former ministers had a shot at returning to the Dáil. 

During the election campaign, McEntee was front and centre of Fine Gael’s “Brexit is only at half-time” election campaign and today appeared to reap the reward of that. 

Unlike here colleague, she was present for almost all counts – the last of which was held at around midnight, when she was elected. 

On the seventh count in Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA club this evening, she was deemed elected with 12,984 votes, including transfers.

She was elected in the count immediately after that which Doherty was eliminated in, meaning much of Doherty’s transfers went to her. 

McEntee described her disappointment for her colleague saying “alot of friends and colleagues have lost their seats so of course I am relieved to be keeping mine”.

“I am sorry for my colleague Regina Doherty who has not been elected, we’ve worked hard the two of us over the past couple of years but obviously the Sinn Féin rise meant that the ability to retain two seats in a three-seater constituency just became very difficult.”

But it was Darren O’Rourke for Sinn Féin, however, that was the big winner in this constituency, taking the first seat in Meath East – a seat likely to have been reserved for Doherty if it were not for the Sinn Féin surge of late. 

Joined by the the Sinn Féin deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, O’Rourke was elected on the second count, with O’Neill commenting from the count centre, “I think the voters have spoken, the voters have come out and voted for change and we heard what they had to say and we’re determined to deliver.”

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Conor McCrave


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