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Altan's Mairead sings the praises of Sinn Fein by-election candidate

The Donegal South West by-election got a touch of glamour yesterday when traditional musician and singer Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh joined Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty to hand in his nomination papers.

Founder of traditional group Altan, and current Donegal Person of the Year, Ms Ni Mhaonaigh said she had been delighted to be asked by Mr Doherty to co-sign his papers.

"I am very proud of Pearse. He is a neighbour. He stood up for this election which was needed in Donegal after 17 months without a TD.

"I am not a political person at all and I am not affiliated with any political party but I believe a lot in what Pearse is doing as an individual," she said outside Letterkenny court.

While Sinn Fein are hoping to win a seat in Donegal, they will be losing Louth TD Arthur Morgan at the next general election.

The party's 56-year-old finance spokesman said yesterday that he will not be running at the next general election, and would like to return to business. Prior to his election, he was engaged in the family fish business, in which he still has an interest.

In Donegal, Mr Doherty was the first of the five candidates to hand in his nomination papers to County Register Geraldine O'Connor.

Fresh from an appearance on TV3's 'Tonight with Vincent Browne' with the other party candidates, he said he was disappointed with the quality of the debate.

"I was disappointed for the public after waiting so long. "We need to get away from the name-calling," he said.

He added that he did not underestimate the challenge Sinn Fein faced to secure the seat.

Meanwhile, students claimed the Irish government was deliberately trying to exclude them from the election by holding polling on a Thursday -- when most would be at their studies and unable to return home to vote -- and not giving them enough time to apply for postal votes.

Belfast Telegraph