Big hitters lose out as Sinn Féin make gains

Former Labour leader Joan Burton has lost her seat. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Former Labour leader Joan Burton has lost her seat. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE Republic's most dramatic election for decades has seen a number of political big hitters facing potential oblivion, with some former ministers losing their seats.

A surge at the polls for Sinn Féin has been the big story and in many constituencies its candidates superseded major figures.

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar managed a couple of hundred more first preference votes in Dublin West than he did in 2016 yet this time he didn't top the poll and was second to runaway winner Paul Donnelly of Sinn Féin. The Fine Gael leader also failed to reach the quota until the fifth count. Fine Gael's Simon Coveney, the outgoing tánaiste, was elected on the eighth count in Cork South-Central.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had to settle for second place in the Cork South-Central seat, coming nearly 3,000 votes behind Sinn Féin's Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.

Arguably the biggest surprise came for three former Sinn Féin councillors who failed to get re-elected to their local authority last May but on Saturday secured a place in the Dáil.

Johnny Mythen was elected on the first count in Wexford and Sorca Clarke looked set to secure a seat in Longford-Westmeath, while Mairéad Farrell, whose aunt and namesake from Belfast was shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988, was on course to become one of five TDs representing Galway West.

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Ms Farrell's father Niall moved to the Republic decades ago and was politically active in his adopted county, joining the Galway Alliance Against War.

Mr Farrell (67) was one of two anti-war activists arrested at a protest at Shannon Airport in 2013 where he was highlighting use of the airport by the US.

In Meath East, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty failed to retain her seat while Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross lost his seat in Dublin-Rathdown.

Analysis (Premium):

  • John Manley: Sinn Féin storms to fore but will it be in government?
  • Allison Morris: A new Ireland with changing priorities emerges
  • Deaglán de Bréadún: A change has come - Sinn Féin must now keep up momentum

Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O'Connor lost her seat in the Dunlaoighre constituency while outgoing Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, as well as Fianna Fáil frontbench TDs Lisa Chambers and Jim O'Callaghan appear to be heading for defeat.

The former Labour Party leader Joan Burton looks likely to lose out in Dublin West.

Junior minister Andrew Doyle in Wicklow also looks likely to lose out while one of the two Wexford ministers will also lose their seat with a battle for survival between Fine Gael's Paul Kehoe and Micheal D'Arcy.

Former Fine Gael minister Damien English was expected to take a seat in Meath West despite being written off in early tallies, while Aontu leader Peadar Toibin was set to just hold the seat he first won as a Sinn Féin candidate in 2011.