You Spin Me Right Round

It’s been a bad week for the Irish government and the results of today’s by-election in Donegal South West would seem to have added to their woes. Its main party, Fianna Fáil, has been Ireland’s leading political party for over seventy years and has now been in power for all but three of the previous twenty-three. More or less, they have received 40% of first preference votes at each the last four general elections, but their abysmal performance over the last few years has seen them plummet to third place in the opinion polls behind traditional bridesmaids Fine Gael and the resurgent Labour Party. Their voting share in these polls has more than halved to 17%. As if this wasn’t bad enough for them, a government party hasn’t won a by-election in Ireland since 1982 when Noel Treacy took Galway East. Each of the twenty by-elections since then has gone to an opposition candidate. These factors would suggest that the party had little chance of winning today’s by-election

Nevertheless, Fianna Fáil must have been more optimistic about doing better in this constituency than others as the party has consistently returned two of the three deputies elected at each general election. In addition, the party has received an average of 45% of the first preference vote at the last four elections in Donegal South West. However, recent opinion polls have put their candidate on 20%, with the Sinn Féin candidate emerging as the favourite. And so it proved today when the result of the first count put Pearse Doherty way out in front with 39% of first preference votes. His share had almost doubled since 2007 (21.2%), which had been a huge increase on the 7.6% he picked up in 2002. He was elected on the fourth count without reaching the quota. In contrast, Fianna Fáil’s candidate Brian O’Domhnaill halved the party’s share of the vote to 21%, which still put him in second place after the first count. Despite this loss, the party will do their best to put a positive spin on the result

Similarly, Fine Gael’s candidate, Barry O’Neill, only pulled in 19% of the vote, despite his party’s position at the top of the national polls. His tally represented a 5% drop in Fine Gael’s average over the last three elections, which must be seen as a poor result. Of course, his party will point out that O’Neill moved ahead of O’Domhnaill on the fourth and final count. Frank McBrearty of Labour received fewer votes than Thomas Pringle (Ind), but his party has pointed out that this is more than three times their showing last time out. So, each party can take some positives out of the negatives, but Sinn Féin emerge as the only real winners as, ultimately, their candidate proved to be far stronger than his opponents. In any case, his time as a TD will be short-lived as a general election will take place within the next few months. He won’t pick up as many votes then, but he must fancy his chances of getting elected when the so-called big guns show up in the New Year. He should certainly take one seat from Fianna Fáil and they may even struggle to win any if they fail to improve on their showing today. And that would certainly put the party in a spin

You Spin Me Right Round (Dead or Alive cover) – Thea Gilmore & Mike Cave

Electioneering (Radiohead cover) – Easy Star All-Stars

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