Saturday’s General Election count in Donegal saw the people of the county come together and vote for change.
In the usual Fianna Fail stronghold county, the party returned just one TD, Inishowen’s Charlie McConalogue, and dramatically An Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, was defeated in Donegal South West.
There, Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty topped the poll with 14,262 votes, alongside Buncrana’s Padraig MacLochlainn in the North East.
The Sinn Fein deputy was elected after the third count in Donegal North East pulling in a mammoth 9,278 first preference votes, just 202 votes under the quota.
The Buncrana Mayor said he felt the returns in the two constituencies left Sinn Féin the largest political party in Donegal. He and Pearse Doherty first contested the General Election in 2002.
“We set ourselves a 10-year plan, but we almost did it in five.”
When the two ran again in 2007, Fianna Fáil’s Niall Blaney pipped Colr MacLochlainn after the eighth count without making the quota. Mr. Doherty placed fourth following the third count.
“We came close to winning two seats last time. It was very, very painful. But the party members dusted themselves down and continued to work hard in their communities,” said Mr MacLochlainn
The new TD said he was immensely proud of the party organisation. He said people consider candidates and think it’s a personality contest.
Mr MacLochlainn said he looked forward to working with Mr Doherty and the other Donegal TDs “to make sure Donegal gets its share.”
Derry’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, arrived at in Letterkenny to congratulate the Buncrana man with a warm hug saying this marked the first time since partition that Donegal had elected two Sinn Féin TDs.
He said he was a friend of Mr. MacLochlainn’s late father, Reamonn and had long known the new deputy.
Minister McGuinness called the election of Gerry Adams in Louth and Sinn Féin’s success nationally “a steep change for the development of Sinn Féin in the south, allowing the new, young rising stars of Sinn Féin to come to the fore”.
Joe McHugh of Fine Gael, who topped the poll when he was elected to the Dáil in 2007, and Charlie McConalogue of Fianna Fáil took the constituency’s other seats on Saturday, following a long count in Letterkenny.