Labour’s Patrick Nulty emerged victorious in Dublin West’s by-election, but not before his socialist comrades demanded a recount to determine whether their candidate would come second or third. From the earliest tallies, Nulty’s success was never in doubt in the counting room on the first floor of the Citywest Convention Centre. At the same time, below on the ground floor, the party’s presidential candidate Michael D Higgins also won the lion’s share of number ones.
But despite Labour’s dual success, a good deal of the talk at the Saggart venue centred on the poor voting performance of Fine Gael’s Eithne Loftus and the unexpected success of Fianna Fáil’s David McGuinness, both Fingal county councillors.
Loftus departed the count centre shortly after the returning officer John Fitzpatrick informed the modest gathering that she had won just 5,263 first preferences. In contrast, Nulty had won 8,665 and McGuinness 7,742, with Socialist Party Left Alliance candidate Ruth Coppinger close on his heels with 7,542.
‘‘I’m going for dinner. I’m going to celebrate,” Loftus joked to The Sunday Business Post. The well-known bridge player admitted it had been a tiring campaign.
She said she was not likely to return to the count centre to see the evening out.
‘‘There will be a Fine Gael presence there but me, no, I am going to take a break with my team, who were wonderful and could not have worked harder,” she said, before departing Citywest for dinner at her local Castleknock Hotel and Country Club.
Earlier on Friday, Loftus’s party colleague, Councillor Kieron Dennison, criticised the approach taken by the FG party leadership, which he said had vacillated over selecting a local candidate while pondering whether to parachute a better known celebrity candidate into the race instead.