The Irish Mail on Sunday

Women take both

FG hangs on to Longford but loses in Dublin West, as surge in female victors starts in Dáil

- By Valerie Hanley and Ferghal Blaney

THE government had both good and bad news last night in the two Dáil by-elections as Fine Gael won in Longford-Westmeath but saw their candidates lose out in Dublin West to Socialist candidate Ruth Coppinger. But in the first sign of an expected record number of female candidates elected to public office, both Dáil seats being contested were taken by women.

With counts continuing last night Fine Gael candidate Gabrielle McFadden looked certain to retain the seat left vacant by the death of her sister Nicky from motor neurone disease in March.

After comfortabl­y topping the poll in the first count, she had gathered 12,459 by the second count yesterday evening, more than 3,500 votes ahead of her main com-

‘I’m very proud to continue

the good work of Nicky’

petitor, Aengus O’Rourke of Fianna Fáil, who was on 8,966.

But it was a different story for the Government parties in Dublin West, where Fine Gael’s Eamon Coughlan trailed in fifth place and Labour’s Lorraine Mulligan came in seventh. Socialist Party candidate Ruth Coppinger claimed victory at 9.15pm after the sixth count. She enjoyed a narrow lead going into the final count at 8,807 ahead of Fianna Fáil’s David McGuinness on 8,163, but topped the poll by 2,453 votes.

Ms Coppinger said her performanc­e should be an indication to the Government that austerity is not working.

‘The Socialist Party and the AntiAuster­ity Alliance are very pleased that we have maintained a massive vote in Dublin West despite what is clearly a surge to Sinn Féin, a surge that was somewhat inevitable if you consider the level of anger, the level of disillusio­nment.

‘So parties such as the Socialist Party who are anti-austerity, and parties who are critics of austerity like Sinn Féin – who have a much bigger apparatus in the form of 14 TDs in the Dáil – would be seen as a vehicle to express a protest and that kind of opposition to austerity,’ Ms Coppinger said.

While he failed to clinch the seat for Sinn Féin, Paul Donnelly said that the number of first prefer- ences he got was a great result. ‘It’s about the policies that Sinn Féin put forward. People listened and they liked it.’ When asked if the arrest of Gerry Adams had damaged the vote, Mr Donnelly simply replied: ‘Have a look at the results and see.’

Meanwhile, celebratin­g her anticipate­d victory in Longford-Westmeath, Ms McFadden said that running for her late sister’s seat was an emotional experience.

Fighting back the tears, the 47year-old mother of two admitted: ‘It’s bitterswee­t. I would love to be in the Athlone count centre with Nicky by my side. I’m desperatel­y lonely for her as are all my family.

‘It’s very hard and I didn’t expect to be as emotional.’

She added: ‘I’m very honoured and very proud to be elected and to continue the very good work of Nicky. I think the economy is recovering, and I will be working to shout for Longford-Westmeath to see some of this.’ The other high-profile candidate, Aengus O’Rourke, son of Fianna Fáil’s Mary O’Rourke, was running for the first time in a Dáil election, and claimed that he was pleased with the outcome.

The Athlone businessma­n said: ‘I’ll continue to build on the foundation based in this election.

‘I intend to keep up the hard work. It’s a clear marker for the future. I did poll very well. I’m very pleased. What came across at the doors were all the Government’s broken promises.’

 ??  ?? PLEASED: Ruth Coppinger with her daughter Sarah
PLEASED: Ruth Coppinger with her daughter Sarah
 ??  ?? PoLL toPPEr: Gabrielle McFadden
PoLL toPPEr: Gabrielle McFadden
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