Emotional McEntee pays tribute to late father

Fine Gael candidate Helen McEntee said she was overwhelmed by the support she had received after her victory in the Meath East by-election today.

Ms McEntee, 26, topped the poll taking the seat held by her late father, former junior minister Shane McEntee.

Choking back tears and flanked by her mother Kathleen, brother Vincent and sister Sally, she added that if she becomes half the TD her father was she will be a happy woman.

“It’s a bitter sweet day. We’re here and he’s not but we’re doing the best we can and we make the best of the situation, and we’re absolutely delighted,” Ms McEntee said.

“It’s great to hear stories about him and that’s what we did along the way. He was everywhere with us.”

Ms McEntee, one of the country’s youngest politicians, secured around 39% of the vote.

In contrast to Fine Gael’s victory, Labour’s humiliation was evident from early on result with Mr Holmes attracting just 1,245 votes, fifth place.

Earlier, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said falling bond yields “buttered no parsnips” for the people in the by-election.

“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?”’ the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil saw its support rebound from near wipeout in the 2011 election – Mr Byrne secured an increase of support in Meath East from 19% of the vote to 34%.

After transfers of votes, ended up with a total 9,582 – just under 2,000 fewer than Ms McEntee who secured 11,423 by the third and final count of the day.

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.

Meath East returning officer Mary O’Malley confirmed a total 24,309 valid votes had been cast – of an electorate of 64,164.

She said the overall turnout had been nearly 38%.

Labour is to push for renegotiation of the programme for Government after its dismal performance.

Minister Rabbitte, a former Labour leader, said he expected talks between the parties on the direction of Government.

“The fact of the matter is that we have had two by-elections and a presidential election in the period of this administration and the Government parties have won all three,” the Taoiseach said.

Labour’s Eoin Holmes secured just 5% support losing significant ground to a resurgent Fianna Fáil as their candidate Thomas Byrne came a close second with 34% of the poll.

Reeling from Labour’s dismal by-election showing, Mr Rabbitte ruled out any dramatic change of tack in Government, but warned that the Coalition had to refocus its course in tackling challenging economic issues.

“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,” he said.

“I expect that will be done.”

Mr Kenny refused to be drawn on the drastic difference in Fine Gael and Labour support.

He insisted he had never known a by-election to take place during such challenging economic times.

The Taoiseach described Ms McEntee as a “stupendous” candidate.

“This is a vote by the people of Meath East, but this is not just a vote in respect of her dad the late Shane McEntee,” Mr Kenny said.

“This is a vote for a formidable candidate in her own right.”

He added that Ms McEntee’s victory would bring a conclusion to a very sad period in her family’s lives.

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