00:00 Saturday 05 March 2011  Written by Con Downing

Fianna Fil swept out of office!

ELECTION 2011 is one the Fianna Fáil party will want to forget after the trouncing it took through the ballot boxes, as an angy public vented its fury at them over the state they have left the country in after 14 years in government.

The party suffered such severe losses - many of them high-profile, from Tánaiste Mary Coughlan down - that new leader Micheál Martin will have a monumental task trying to rebuild the organisation over the next several years. The only good news for him was that he topped the poll in his own constutuency of Cork South Central and saw his running mate, Michael McGrath, also retain his seat to become one of only two constituencies in the country where the party managed to win two seats.

Cork South Central returned outgoing TDs Simon Coveney (FG) and Ciarán Lynch (Labour). However, outgoing Fine Gael TD Deirdre Clune lost her seat to party colleague Jerry Buttimer.

For the first time in its history, Fianna Fáil does not have a seat in Cork South West with Labour's Senator Michael McCarthy winning it from outgoing TD Christy O'Sullivan and Fine Gael, with 48.5% of the first preferences between three candidates, holding on to its two seats with new personnel Jim Daly - who topped the poll - and Noel Harrington, bringing a fresh and more youthful look to the area's Dáil representation.

O'Sullivan and his FF running partner, Senator Denis O'Donovan, who outpolled him, garnered 23.6% of the first preference vote between them, as opposed to McCarthy's 14.3%, but the latter benefited hugely, after their elimination, from the transfers of the independents, Green Party and - crucially - Sinn Féin.

In Cork North West, Fianna Fáil also lost a seat in the wake of the retirement of Minister Batt O'Keeffe. It went to newcomer Áine Collins of Fine Gael - who became the first woman ever elected for the party in the constituency - while outgoing TDs, poll-topper Michael Creed (FG) and Michael Moynihan (FF) held on to their seats.

The third rural constituency in the county, Cork East, saw two Fianna Fáil seats lost, as Minister of State Michael Ahern was another victim of the backlash against the party, while Kevin O'Keeffe failed in his bid to win the seat vacated by his controversial father, Ned. David Stanton (FG) retained his seat and the gains here were made by Fine Gael's Tom Barry and Sinn Féin's Sandra McLellan, both Cork county councillors, while outgoing Labour TD Sean Sherlock topped the poll.

In Cork North Central, Sinn Féin made a major gain with the election of Jonathan O'Brien, who topped the poll, just ahead of Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher - the party's sole candidate - who held on to his seat, but they lost one there, as retired TD Noel O'Flynn's seat was not contested by FF. Labour's Kathleen Lynch comfortably held on to her seat and former Cork Lord Mayor Dara Murphy won the seat vacated by his retired party colleague Bernard Allen.

In Dublin, the Fianna Fáil wipe-out - like that of the Green Party, who lost all their seats - would have been total, only for outgoing Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan just about managing to hold on to his seat. Nationally, there were huge gains for Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and the number of independents and others.

After the results of the Galway East recount were announced this Wednesday morning, all 166 seats for the 31st Dáil have been filled and the state of the parties (with number of seats won in 2007 in brackets) is: Fine Gael 76 (51), Labour 37 (20), Fianna Fáil 20 (78), Independents 15 (5), Sinn Féin 14 (4), Others 4 (0), Greens 0 (6) and PDs n/a (2).

See our special four-page Election 2011 pull-out on the count details for the five Cork constituences in the Community section of this issue, pages 25 to 28.

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