Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Labour refocus after poll showing

Counting begins in the Meath East by-election at Donaghmore GAA club
Counting begins in the Meath East by-election at Donaghmore GAA club

Labour is to push for renegotiation of the programme for Government after a dismal by-election performance in Meath East.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said he expected talks between the coalition parties after Fine Gael's Helen McEntee topped the poll and took the seat held by her late father, former junior minister Shane McEntee.

Labour suffered a humiliating result, with the party's candidate Eoin Holmes running in fifth with just 1,245 votes, 5% of the valid poll.

The crisis was compounded by a resurgent Fianna Fail, which saw its support rebound from near wipeout in the 2011 election - Thomas Byrne secured an increase of support in Meath East from 19% of the vote to 34%.

Mr Rabbitte, a former Labour leader, ruled out any dramatic change of tack in Government but warned that the coalition had to refocus its course in tackling challenging economic issues.

He said: "There won't be any shift in that but it has been normal since coalition governments became the norm that halfway through a government parties sit down and look at where we are and what refurbishment of the programme might be necessary. I expect that will be done."

The support for 26-year-old Ms McEntee, one of the country's youngest politicians, was down in part to her father's legacy, the farming bloc and sympathy among voters from across the political spectrum.

Among the also-rans, Sinn Fein's Darren O'Rourke polled relatively strongly with 3,370 votes on elimination and Ben Gilroy, candidate for new party Direct Democracy Ireland, had an impressive first run at the ballot box with 1,793 votes.

Labour's dismal show was at odds with coalition partner Fine Gael's impressive performance in securing support for the McEntee name across the county.

Mr Rabbitte said falling bond yields "buttered no parsnips" for the people in the by-election. He said: "People are not minded to listen to macro economics, they want to know 'how does it affect my pocket, how does it affect prospects of a young person in my home getting a job, does it help me to pay my mortgage?'"

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