Fianna Fáil has conceded defeat in the Meath East by-election with Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee on course to be formally elected to the seat previously held by her late father.

The official result has not been announced but Ms McEntee celebrated her expected win by a margin of about 5% with supporters at the count centre in Ashbourne.

Her closest rival Fianna Fail’s Thomas Byrne, who polled second with around 34% of the vote, thanked those who remained loyal to his party.

“We’ve increased our vote from 19% to whatever it was, 33, 34%. That’s a huge increase for me and I’m delighted with that,” Mr Byrne said.

“It’s the largest that we have got in years and I’m really pleased with it. I want to thank all those who came out and voted for me and I wish Helen all the very best.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said the by-election was fought under difficult circumstances given the death of Ms McEntee’s father, former junior minister Shane McEntee just before Christmas.

He said the McEntees had a good name in the Meath East constituency and were well respected.

None of the candidates reached the quota of 12,155 votes in the first count.

Ms McEntee topped the poll and was well in the lead with 9,356 votes, followed by Mr Byrne with 8,002 and Sinn Féin’s Mr O’Rourke with 3,165.

Six candidates receiving the lowest amount were eliminated from the running and their second preference votes will be transferred.

There was little difference in the first count between Direct Democracy’s Mr Gilroy and the humiliated Labour candidate Mr Holmes, with 1,568 and 1,112 votes respectively.

Meath East returning officer Mary O’Malley confirmed 24,309 valid votes were cast, from a total electorate of 64,164.

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