Seats pile in for Sinn Fein
Seats pile in for Sinn Fein

A series of stunning upsets has seen Sinn Fein dominate news coverage of the 2011 General Election in the 26 Counties by winning 13 seats so far.

A ‘Rebel County’ revolution has seen Jonathan O’Brien and Sandra McLellan triumphant for Sinn Fein in Cork North Central and Cork East respectively.

The victories mark a historic breakthrough after eighty years without a Sinn Fein TD in Cork -- and were matched by equally stunning victories in Dublin and constituencies across Ireland, and in all four provinces.

The victory of Jonathan O’Brien came first in Cork was the first major surprise in a night of shocks.

His success was marked with a spirited rendition of “On the One Road”. A Basque flag, a Cork flag, multiple Irish flags and a picture of local patriot Tomas MacCurtain were waved aloft as it became clear O’Brien had brought the spirit of Sinn Fein back to Cork.

Speaking to journalists, Mr O’Brien pointed to the effects of the economic crisis on his constituency, but pointed to the “15 years of hard work” that had been carried out by grassroots Sinn Fein campaigners.

He said the first thing he would do is “knock on Enda’s door” and tell him that the people of his community will “no longer to be ignored” following years of neglect by Fianna Fail.


The success of Youghal-based councillor Sandra McLellan - a working mother and a former shop steward - in picking up a seat on Cork East came shortly afterwards. The shock result was seen as a testament to the planning of Sinn Fein’s new strategists as well as those on the ground in the traditional Fianna Fail heartland.

Fianna Fail lost both of its TDs in the constituency, opening the door for Ms McLellan to take the last seat on the fifth count. Ms McLellan becomes the first Sinn Fein TD for the constituency since 1927.

Speaking on RTE, Ms McLellan said it was a “historic moment for our party” after she took the seat by 600 or 700 votes, thanks partly to geographical factors in the large constituency.

Vowing that Sinn Fein was “going to be a formidable opposition”, she revealed that party had set a target of 16 seats in the election.

As of the time of writing, the party looks set to run very close to that target.


In Dublin, Dessie Ellis had had a long wait for his victory - not least the seven counts to confirm his excellent second-place showing, sandwiched between two Labour candidates.

Mr Ellis, a former IRA prisoner who was extradited from the US, said he never thought he’d see the day when he’d be a member of the Dail and said he was “incredibly proud”.

First elected to Dublin City Council in 1999 for the Finglas area, Mr Ellis said Sinn Fein would provide “real opposition” in the Dail. “We’ll be screaming from the highest heavens if needs be”, he said.


It was third time lucky for Mary Lou McDonald, who won the fourth and last seat in Dublin Central.

Extraordinarily, Fianna Fail was shut out of the stronghold of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Unlike other celebrations, there was no shoulder-hoisting as Mary Lou, wreathed in smiles, hugged local Sinn Fein activists, such as Cabra stalwart Nicky Kehoe, who of course paved the way for her success in previous elections.

Speaking to increasingly downbeat presenters on state-run RTE, she said her party now had a “job of work to do” and that there would now be expectations on Sinn Fein to deliver.

She said voters had lost any tolerance for “political play acting”. “People want change and we want to be part of that,” she said.

Elsewhere in Dublin, Aengus O Snodaigh comfortably retained his seat in Dublin South-Central, but there was disappointment for Larry O’Toole, who narrowly missed out on a seat in Dublin North-East.


In Kerry North/West Limerick, Martin Ferris successfully retained the third and final seat in the constituency as Labour’s Arthur Spring - nephew of Dick - displaced the Fianna Fail incumbent.

And the election of Peadar Toibin in Meath West brought to fulfillment the long campaign in the county of experienced campaigner Joe Reilly. Another victory which pundits had not predicted, Mr Toibin has been a republican activist in the area for over 11 years.

He took the second seat of the three-seater on the fifth count, splitting two Fine Gaelers, on the back of an impressive and professional campaign on the ground.

But the undoubted feather in Sinn Fein’s cap was the triumph in Sligo/North Leitrim of Michael Colreavy, where Fianna Fail has again been shut out of a key constituency.

The Leitrim man has restored his county’s representation in the Dail and Sinn Fein’s representation in Connaught - meaning the party now has parliamentary seats in all four provinces.

At the time of writing, Sinn Fein is still battling for a second seat in Cavan/Monaghan, and awaiting counts in Laois/Offaly, Cork South-Central, and Wicklow.

Television commentators are predicting Sinn Fein could get up to 16 seats, and Fianna Fail as little as 18 seats, with Fine Gael set to get around 76, Labour around 40, and independents around 16.

Fine Gael still set to form the next government without an overall majority, while doubts are hanging over the very survival of Fianna Fail.

Counting is now completed in more than half the constituencies, and will resume in the rest in the morning.

The following is a round-up of the results so far:

                SF      FF      FG      Labour  Green   Others
 Seats won      13      9       49      28      0       12
 Vote share     10.05%  17.65%  35.51%  19.65%  1.82%   15.32%

Sinn Fein have won the following seats so far:

Adams - Louth
O Caolain - Cavan-Monaghan
Doherty - Donegal SW
Crowe - Dublin SW
Ferris - Kerry N
O Snodaigh - Dublin SC
Mac Lochlainn - Donegal NE
Ellis - Dublin NW
Colreavy - Sligo-Leitrim N
McLellan - Cork E
McDonald - Dublin C
Toibin - Meath W
O’Brien - Cork NC

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© 2011 Irish Republican News