‘Tánaiste Mary Coughlan loses her seat’
There was a Constituency Commission boundary revision here since 2007, with a transfer of a population of 2,351 into this constituency from Donegal North-East. This means that all of the divisions in the old Stranorlar Rural District are now within this constituency. However, the constituency did retain its three seats.
This was one of the few constituencies where Fine Gael experienced a drop in support in this election as their vote was down three points on 2007. Dinny McGinley was in second place on the first count with 0.8 of a quota and he went on to retain his seat comfortably.
The Fianna Fail performance in this constituency was in sharp contrast to their showing in the neighbouring constituency of Donegal North-East where their single candidate strategy delivered them a seat. It was all so different in South-West as the party went from two seats in 2007 to drawing a blank for the first time since this constituency was set up in 1937. The Fianna Fáil vote was down 28 points but with 0.9 of a quota they should have been in contention for a single seat. However their vote was spread fairly evenly between its two candidates, outgoing Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and outgoing Senator Brían Ó Domhnaill. Both candidates were outside the frame on the first count and with less than half a quota each. O Domhnaill’s run-out in the November 2010 by-election gave him a good platform for the general election contest and he overtook Coughlan on the fourth count. But he was still too far off the pace and a relatively poor 55% share of Coughlan’s transfers sealed his and his party’s fate.
Fianna Fáil’s poor candidate strategy presented independent candidate Thomas Pringle with an opportunity for a surprise seat gain. The former Sinn Fein and now independent councillor was in third place on the first count, 889 votes ahead of Coughlan. He did well on transfers and went on to comfortably take the final seat ahead of Ó Domhnaill and extended his winning margin to 1,341. Pringle had performed well in November’s by-election and like many a losing by-election candidate before him, went on to win a seat at the following Dail election.
Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher resigned his Dail seat on his election to the European Parliament in 2009. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty comfortably won the subsequent by-election in November 2010. He made the most of his by-election win and his Dáil performances as Sinn Fein’s finance spokesman enhanced his reputation. Doherty repeated his by-election winning performance in the general election and topped the poll. He was well over the quota on the first count and took the first seat with another impressive performance.
This was a poor performance by the Labour party with Frank McBrearty winning just 5% of the first preference vote to leave him out of contention. He had done poorly in the by-election and it was all downhill after that.