Ireland crisis: Sinn Fein set for stunning election victory
Sinn Fein look set to clinch a stunning victory in a by-election in Donegal - putting more pressure on the Republic of Ireland's beleaguered premier Brian Cowen.
Fianna Fail conceded defeat after Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty clinched almost 40% of first tally votes for the seat vacated by MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher.
Mr Doherty said the message for Taoiseach Brian Cowen from the people of Donegal South West was 'get out of office'
Tallymen estimated that turnout was 56.1%,.
A Sinn Fein victory would leave the Fianna Fail administration with a two seat majority - further undermining the authority of Cowen.
Fine Gael's Barry O'Neil said his party would take plenty of encouragement from his expected second place finish. He also confirmed that he would put himself forward as a candidate in next year's General Election.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams arrived at the count centre and signalled his satisfaction with the poll.
"The people of this state have a very, very bad government," he said.
"It appears the people have responded and they have made a stand alongside Sinn Fein."
Donegal South-West is a largely rural and coastal constituency with a significant number of native Irish speakers.
The poll was held after a successful High Court challenge by Sinn Fein to the government's delay in holding a by-election.
The parties' final unofficial tallies showed Sinn Fein at 39.7% of support, Fianna Fail at 21.2%, Labour at 10.2%, Fine Gael at 18.4% and the independent candidate at 10.1%.