‘Sinn Fein make breakthrough as Fianna Fáil hold onto a single seat’
There was a Constituency Commission boundary revision here since 2007, with a transfer of a population of 2,351 out of this constituency into Donegal South West. All divisions of the old Stranorlar Rural District are now within this constituency. However, the constituency did retain its three seats.
This contest was as good as over after the first count as the three leading candidates were well clear of the rest of the field. Fine Gael surprisingly added a second candidate, John Ryan from Inishowen, and their vote was up nine points on 2007 but with just 1.3 quotas the party was never in contention for a second seat. Joe McHugh was in second place on the first count and went on to take the second seat with the help of 65% of his running mate’s transfers.
Former Fine Gael candidate Jimmy Harte, whose father Paddy was a long-time Fine Gael TD, joined the Labour party in 2010. He managed to increase the party’s vote by 9 points on their poor 2007 result, but with just 4,090 first preferences, he was outside the frame on the first count with just 0.4 of a quota and was too far off the pace.
It was all change in Fianna Fail as Dr Jim McDaid resigned his seat in November 2010 and outgoing deputy Niall Blaney announced his retirement just prior to the party’s selection convention. This left Fianna Fáil with just a single candidate, newcomer Charlie McConalogue from Inishowen. There was pressure from former deputy McDaid’s supporters to add a Letterkenny-based candidate but the party refused and this proved a prudent decision. The Fianna Fáil vote was down a massive 33 points, their fourth largest loss of support in this election and McConalogue was in third place on the first count with 0.7 of a quota and was nearly 2,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival John Ryan. He was unlikely to be overtaken and so it proved as the single candidate strategy delivered for Fianna Fail. This was in sharp contrast to the neighbouring constituency of Donegal South West where the party ran two candidates and ended up without a seat for the first time.
Sinn Fein went close to winning a seat here at the last election in 2007 and Padraig MacLochlainn made no mistake in 2011 as he topped the poll and was just short of the quota on the first count. He went on to take the first seat on the third count for an impressive performance and another seat gain by Sinn Fein in this election.
Letterkenny based Dessie Shiels failed to take advantage of McDaid’s absence, winning just 5%. Dara Blaney, son of former long serving deputy Neil Blaney contested his father’s old constituency as a “New Vision” candidate but did poorly and lost the right to reclaim his expenses as did three other non-party candidates along with the Green representative.