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Setback for Sinn Fein as Mary Lou McDonald loses her seat

Sinn Fein suffered a serious electoral blow in the Republic after Mary Lou McDonald lost her European seat in Dublin earlier today.

Joe Higgins, of the Socialist Party, has won the third European seat in the Dublin constituency as the former TD beat outgoing MEPs McDonald and Fiannia Fail’s Eoin Ryan on transfers to secure the victory just after 5am.

The move is not only a blow for Sinn Fein but will have a massive impact on Fianna Fail, which now has no MEP in Dublin.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell topped the poll and secured the first seat, with Labour's Proinsias de Rossa getting the second.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's embattled government will now desperately cling to power as Fianna Fail suffered a local elections bloodbath.

The disastrous results in the local and European polls and by-elections for Fianna Fail and the Greens sparked renewed speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle in the autumn.

And Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan was locked in a fight to the finish to hold off Socialist Joe Higgins and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald in the race for the last seat in Dublin.

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Mr Cowen's party plummeted to second place in a national election for the first time in its history and came outside the top two places in the by-elections.

But the Taoiseach said the government would continue with its tough policies.

“The people have spoken and what we have to do now is get on with our work as a Government and continue to communicate the message to the people which is ‘we will do what ever is necessary to restore economic stability and bring growth to the economy’,” he said.

The Green Party was decimated in the elections. It is now without a single councillor in Dublin and just three local representatives across the country.

The first cracks appeared to show as a defeated Green Party councillor, Niall O Brolchain, suggested the party could pull out of power with FF and form an unlikely ad-hoc government with Fine Gael and Labour.

Mr O Brolchain said his understanding from talking to Green Party leader John Gormley was the party would hold a national conference to decide on the party’s future. But it is not believed this special meeting will be imminent.

And Independent TD Michael Lowry would not guarantee if he would vote with the government on the motion of no confidence in Mr Cowen’s coalition, but he is not likely to stray.

Fellow Independent Jackie Healy-Rae said he was “rock solid” behind the gov

ernment, as he also accused new FG TD George Lee of “tricking” his way into the Dail and using his job in RTE. Despite the enormous losses, Mr Cowen's position as leader appears to be stable.

But Fianna Fail backbencher Chris Andrews said Mr Cowen and the party leadership need to communicate better with the public at large and the party grassroots membership.

But the Irish government now appears determined to struggle on rather than face an angry electorate again in a general election.

In the wake of the elections, the government will review the Programme for Government over the course. Arising out of this process, there is speculation within government circles of a change of departmental portfolios and some reshuffle at Cabinet level in the autumn, after the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

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