Sinn Fein win 'boost for party'
Sinn Fein's victory in the Republic's Donegal South West by-election has boosted party morale across the island, one of its leaders has said.
The party's Pearse Doherty seized nearly 40% share of the vote, despite Fianna Fail's traditional hold on the constituency.
Now the Sinn Fein Assembly group leader at Stormont, John O'Dowd, said that while the party's political successes had often been enjoyed north of the border, Sinn Fein was now looking south for inspiration.
"For many years our southern comrades had looked north in terms of our electoral success," he said.
"For once, we were able to look south and say 'brilliant!'"
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is to contest a Dail seat in Louth as the party steps up its campaign in the Republic.
The Fianna Fail-led government in Dublin has pledged to call a general election early this year, while as an all-Ireland party Sinn Fein will also contest Assembly and council elections north of the border in May.
Opinion polls have pointed to increased support for the party in the south, but Mr O'Dowd said painful political lessons for Sinn Fein in the Republic's last general election, and the European elections, showed the party had a lot of work to do.
"We took a blow in the south in the last election, losing a seat in the Dail, then losing Mary Lou McDonald's (European Parliament) seat," he said. "It was a blow, but it wasn't a fatal blow."
He said the party did some "soul searching" and reorganised in the Republic. "So, that is why Pearse's victory was so important, because it was proof that all that hard work and slog had paid off. It was a morale boost."