First count awaited in Inishowen

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The first count in Inishowen is expected to be declared shortly.

It was expected at lunchtime, but should now be declared around 5.30pm.

Counting could go late into the night, as the final seat is expected to be a closely-fought battle between Sinn Fein’s Ciaran McLaughlin and Fine Gael’s John Ryan.

Fine Gael have polled badly right across the peninsula.

While sitting councillor Bernard McGuinness is expected to be re-elected, his colleague Michael Doherty has almost certainly lost his seat.

The party’s fourth candidate Peter McLaughlin, who is not expected to be elected, said Fine Gael had once again “pressed the self destruct button.”

He said: “The tide is going out on them. This is because of the policies they took. While they’re not all wrong, the party always had the ability to press the self destruct button. They’ve done that again.”

Fine Gael Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh said candidates were “sacrificial lambs” for the party.

He said: “The message is loud and clear. Voters went to the polls asking how they could send a message to Government. They did this by voting Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein and the candidates were sacrificial lambs.”

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue said he was “delighted” after first-time candidate Martin McDermott topped the poll. Tallies suggested he received over 1,900 first preferences. This is well over the quota, which will be around 1,500.

He said: “We went in fighting for four seats. It’s looking like we’re getting three, so we’re more than happy.

“Martin had an excellent campaign, which was rooted within the community. He received a phenomenal vote by any standards.”

Sinn Fein candidate Jack Murray said the election could be an “historic” one for the party.

They are hopeful of three seats. The count is taking place on the anniversary of the murder of Sinn Fein county councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Independent candidates also polled well in Inishowen, with Buncrana man Nicholas Crossan looking likely to take a seat.

Another candidate, Ryan Stewart, who will not be elected, said the low turnout of 51% helped the parties.

He said: “Many of those who voted were party members. This election has shown that individual votes do count. I’m very disappointed. When voter turnout is low, no-one can truly say that the people have spoken.”