Northern Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald reflects on 'challenging weekend' for Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it had been a "challenging weekend" for her party. File picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

MARY Lou McDonald has admitted that it has been a "challenging weekend" for Sinn Féin following its poor showing in the Republic's local and European elections.

The Sinn Féin leader insisted her party was "not simply about winning elections" after it lost dozens of council seats and looked set to lose at least one European seat.

The party's losses were in contrast to gains made by the Green party, particularly in Dublin.

Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin would take time to reflect on the election results.

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"It has been a challenging weekend for us but you see the thing about Sinn Féin is we will meet challenges, we will even get speedbumps on the road, and we will rise to that and we will overcome that because Sinn Féin isn't just about a single election, in fact we are not simply about winning elections," she said.

"Sinn Féin is an ideal. Sinn Féin is about social justice, it's about Irish unity, we serve a cause we believe in and whatever challenges and difficulties we encounter we will always rise to them and meet them.

"As the leader of the party I want to make it clear that whatever lessons are to be learned from these elections, and there are many, that we will learn them and that we will make absolutely sure that we can rise to the occasion and the next time round when these seats are up for grabs again we will field candidates again and I hope we will win them all back and then some more."

The party won 100 council seats at the last local government election but failed to retain those gains.

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The poor election results come after the party had a disappointing result in last year's presidential election, with candidate Liadh Ní Riada finishing fourth.

Despite the losses, Ms McDonald insisted her party was not becoming stagnant.

"Absolutely not, we are only beginning, we have plenty more room for growth," she said.

Asked what the prospect of a general election were, she replied: "Very real and have been for some time. But I would be speculating, I don't know - ask Leo."

Although all the votes were still to be counted late yesterday, Sinn Féin received 9.5% of first preference votes - down by 5.8 percentage points compared to 2014.

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The party had been the single biggest in the Dublin area with 32 seats.

However, they were left with just 18 seats, losing 14.

In Limerick, Sinn Féin was down to just two seats - both in Limerick City North.

There was a similar picture in Cork city, where the party received 9.3% fewer votes compared to the 2014 election.

In the European elections, the party comfortably retained its one of Northern Ireland's three seats, with Martina Anderson topping the poll on first preference votes.

However, the party's first preference votes were down by 3.3% compared to 2014.

And Ms Anderson took the third seat after she was leapfrogged by the Alliance's Naomi Long on transfers.

In the Republic, the party was under serious pressure in the European poll last night.

Sinn Féin had three outgoing MEPs in the Republic.

While Matt Carthy polled well and looked set to retain his seat in Midlands-North West, Lynn Boylan was in a battle with Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly to keep her Dublin seat.

Liadh Ní Riada, outgoing MEP for the South constituency, also faced an anxious wait to see if she would retain her seat.

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