ELECTION FINAL: INDEPENDENTS and Sinn Fein have had a glorious local election – and together will hold the balance of power in County House in Lifford when the new council meets on Friday week June 6.
Donegal now has 37 councillors – up from 29 – to take account of the end of our town councils.
There are so many new councillors that the meeting next week will be held in the budget room – because there isn’t enough room in the chamber.
And there is also a change in the make-up of the chamber.
The state of the parties is as follows:
* Fianna Fáil remains the biggest party with 11 councillors
* Sinn Fein has jumped from four to nine.
* Independents have ten seats
* Fine Gael has six seats
* Labour has just one – Martin Farren defying all the odds to increase his vote by 25%.
In the Stranorlar EA, Sinn Féin had a great victory, they won an extra seat in the form of Liam Doherty, and sitting Councillor Gary Doherty topped the poll.
They were joined by independent candidate Frank McBrearty, Fine Gael’s Martin Harley and Fianna Fáil duo Gerry Crawford and Patrick McGowan.
A similar pattern was followed in the Glenties EA, Fianna Fáil Councillor Seamus O’Domhnaill topped the poll, but Sinn Féin gained another extra seat in this constituency.
First time Sinn Féin candidate, John Shéamais Ó Fearraigh joins sitting Councillor Marie Therese Gallagher in Lifford after a stunning campaign.
Enda Bonner (FF) returns to Lifford, after losing out in 2009, while independent candidate Michael Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig was also elected to the council chambers.
The community activist has been a vocal opponent of the household tax and impending water charge, and has been involved in many anti-austerity campaigns.
Concluding the ticket for the Glenties EA, was Fine Gael Councillor Terence Slowey, who had a big battle with Fianna Fáil candidate and well-known referee Ian Molloy.
It looked at one stage like Molloy could replace Slowey in Lifford, and secure the final seat.
However, Slowey got some important transfers that ensured Fine Gael secured a seat in the Glenties EA.
In the Donegal EA, the independents were the big winners, with three candidates gaining election to the local council.
First-time candidate Niamh Kennedy topped the poll after a superb campaign in and around her Killybegs base and she was quickly joined in the next count by fellow independent candidate Tom Conaghan.
Fianna Fáil stalwart Sean McEniff was also re-elected to the council chamber in Lifford.
Sitting Councillor John Campbell was re-elected, alongside Sinn Féin candidate Neil Andrew Jordan and Fine Gael Councillor Barry O’Neill.
The big surprise in Donegal was the elimination of Fianna Fáil candidate Brendan Byrne.
In the Inishowen EA, Sinn Féin made history, sitting Councillor Jack Murray was elected alongside colleague Albert Doherty.
On the 23rd anniversary of the death of Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton, Murray said it was fitting, that Inishowen now had two Sinn Féin representatives in Lifford.
Fianna Fáil candidate Martin McDernott topped the poll, while independent candidate Nicholas Crossan was also elected.
Fine Gael stalward Bernard McGuinness was re- elected, alongside Fianna Fáil duo, Rena Donaghey and Paul Canning.
Labour candidate Martin Farren was also re-elected to return to Lifford in August.
Independent candidate Nicholas Crossan, a town councillor in Buncrana, was also elected from the Inishowen EA.
The longest serving member of the county council Bernard McGuinness was also re-elected.
McGuinness has been on the council since 1979 and John Ryan (FG) saw off Ciaran McLaughlin (SF) to squeeze a seat.
The count in Letterkenny lasted into the early morning as Mick Quinn (SF) just edged out Donal Cullen (Ind) just after 5am.
Liam Blaney (FF) topped the poll and was elected on the first count.
Independent John O’Donnell, after a massive campaign, was also elected and Ciaran Brogan (FF) followed soon afterwards.
James Pat McDaid (FF) followed on the 13th count, as high profile candidates like John Watson (FF) and Paschal Blake (Ind) were squeezed out.
Mayor Ian McGarvey (Ind), Gerry McMonagle (SF), Michael McBride (Ind), solicitor Dessie Shiels (Ind), and popular Letterkenny town councillor Jimmy Kavanagh (FG) were all elected in the wee small hours.
In the early hours Fine Gael Deputy Joe McHugh could be heard on the phone in the leisure centre reception in Letterkenny speaking to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Deputy McHugh said the vote was “a strong message” to the government that it needed to change direction.
“Good councillors like Noel McBride have lost seats as a result of decisions at Government level,” he said.
“The people have spoken.”
Meanwhile Mayor Ian McGarvey said he had enjoyed the last year as the county’s first citizen and vowed to continue his work “for young and old” and building relationships across communities.