Ireland – By election

The already beleaguered Irish government is even more beleaguered after yesterday’s by election result, which saw an opposition party win the seat.

The by election in Donegal South-West was caused by a ruling Fianna Fáil deputy being elected to the European Parliament. This meant that he had to give up his seat in the Dáil. That was in June 2009. The government expected to lose the by election, even though it was in the constituency that had the highest vote for the Fianna Fáil party in the 2007 election. Fearful of losing the by election, the government delayed calling it. In the end, an opposition politician took a case to the High Court, which ruled that the delay was unreasonable, thus provoking the election.

As expected, the government lost the election. Here is the result:

Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin), 39.9%
Brian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fáil), 21.3%
Barry O’Neill (Fine Gael), 18.7%
Thomas Pringle (Ind.), 10.0%
Frank McBrearty (Labour), 9.8%

Pearse Doherty was elected at the fourth count under Ireland’s STV system. He was the person who took the case to Court.

The government is a coalition between Fianna Fáil and the Greens. Last week, the Greens announced that they were staying in government to vote for the budget, but that they would withdraw and, effectively, provoke an election in January. The Fianna Fáil Taoiseach (PM), Brian Cowen, then announced that an election would be held after the whole of the budget process was completed in February or March. So, either way, an election is pending.

The polls show that Fianna Fáil will do poorly at the election. In 2007, they got 50% in Donegal South-West, so their vote was down hugely. Fine Gael are expected to form the next government in coalition with Labour.

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