Sinn Fein wins Donegal South-West by-election

Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty has been elected to the Irish parliament for the Donegal SW constituency.

The election was the first major poll in the country since the government sought a bail-out due to its fiscal deficit and concerns about its banks.

Mr Doherty won 13,719 first preference votes, 6,000 more than the candidate for the largest party in the Irish parliament, Fianna Fail.

Its coalition with the Greens has now only a parliamentary majority of two.

Mr Doherty, who had been heavily tipped to win the seat, said the result had sent a message to Fianna Fail that its policies had been firmly rejected.

He added: "Obviously we are absolutely blown over by the number of people who have come out and voted for Sinn Fein and our vision for this county and this country."

The seat became vacant after Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher of Fianna Fail was elected to the European Parliament in 2009.

Fianna Fail's share of the vote fell from 50% in the 2007 general election to just 21% in the by-election.

The poll was held after a successful High Court challenge by Sinn Fein to the government's delay in holding a by-election.

Mr Doherty is likely to be a member of the Irish parliament for only a short time with the Irish prime minister Brian Cowen promising a general election in the new year.

Donegal South-West is a largely rural and coastal constituency with a significant number of native Irish speakers.

On Wednesday, the government announced plans to cut public spending by 15bn euros over the next four years.

Parliament will vote on the proposals in December.

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