Sinn Féin has won its first seat on the Board of Udaras na Gaeltachta, the authority with responsibility for Irish-speaking regions in Ireland.
Republican Sinn Féin’s Tomas O Curraoin narrowly missed capturing a seat in the closely-fought Galway area.
A total of 44 candidates competed for 17 seats among an electorate of 79,600 within Irish-speaking areas of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Meath.
Galway has six Udaras seats, Donegal has four, Kerry and Mayo have two each and Cork, Waterford and Meath are represented by one.
Grainne Mhic Geidigh yesterday became Sinn Féin’s first representative on the Board following the count for the Donegal Gaeltacht in Dungloe.
Sinn Féin general secretary, Mitchel McLaughlin, who was in Dungloe for the count, described the success as an ‘historic breakthrough’ for the party and said the party had polled strongly in the three constituencies of Donegal, Galway and Meath.
“Sinn Féin stood in this election on our agenda for change in relation to the role of Udaras na Gaeltachta, re-building the peace process and campaigning for Irish re-unification.
“Sinn Féin will use our mandate for change and our priorities on the Board of Udaras na Gaeltachta will be job creation, reform of Udaras na Gaeltachta to make it relevant, accountable and democratic and an integrated strategic plan, which would look at all the language needs of the Gaeltachtai.”
Fianna Fail retained its majority on the authority last night in a low overall turnout of 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, preparation for the expected British general election on May 5 continues in the Six Counties.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble is reported to have asked the DUP not to contest four seats in the British general election to boost efforts by rival nationalists to defeat Sinn Féin.
This would allow the SDLP and Tyrone hospitals campaigner, Dr Kieran Deeney, a free run against Sinn Féin.
Although Mr Trimble did not suggest a pact in those exact terms, he admitted seeking to develop a way of damaging Sinn Féin electorally. He said this might entail Unionists voting SDLP in some areas.
Responding to news of possible election pacts, a Sinn Féin spokesman said: “We will be defending our seats and increasing our votes in these elections.
“It’s not surprising to us. All unionists are comfortable negotiating with the SDLP rather than on the all Ireland mandate of Sinn Féin. In fact, it says more about the SDLP than the UUP.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that more than 40,000 people will be prevented from voting in next month’s Westminster elections.
The reason for the drop in voting numbers is controversial new re-registration procedures ostensibly introduced to combat voter fraud, but which has acted only as a deterrent to voters.
West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said: “This is a crisis, and I have very serious concerns. The people not on the register are mostly young, nationalist and working-class.
“More than 40,000 votes spread across the North’s 18 Westminster constituencies will have a major difference on which parties are elected. “I am repeating calls for the Electoral Fraud Act to be scrapped.”