As was widely predicted, banking inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch lost his seat, with his vote falling more than the Labour collapse nationwide
Mr Lynch, a brother-in-law of North Central’s Kathleen Lynch, who also lost her seat, picked up just 4.35% of the first-preference votes — a drop of over 14 points compared to 2011.
Neither of the defeated Lynch TDs visited City Hall during the count.
Dáil newcomer Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, from Togher, was the beneficiary of the Labour implosion and secured 12.55% of the first preferences.
“Irish politics is changing, that’s very clear,” he said. “This is the first election where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will probably have less than half of the vote share. That’s a huge sign that would have been up in 80 or 90 years ago.
“People are looking for an alternative to austerity, an investment in their communities, in housing, education, in health. We represent that. We represent a more egalitarian analysis of society.”
The Sinn Féin victory was predicted from early in the count because, with the low overall Fine Gael vote and the elimination of seven Independent and AAA/PBP candidates, their hard left and protest votes were bound to head his way.
Cork South Central had changed from a five-seater to a four-seater since 2011 and, with five sitting TDs in the contest, it was the acknowledged ‘group of death’ of 2016.
The first TDs to be elected were Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Micheál Martin, who held hands as they were raised on the shoulders of their supporters at Cork City Hall on Saturday evening.
Mr McGrath, the polltopper, is another banking inquiry member and also Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman. He had a great election, picking up 21% of the constituency vote and outpolling Simon Coveney 2:1 in their Carrigaline homelands. Fianna Fáil in total enjoyed a strong 41.5% of the constituency vote.
Mr McGrath hailed it a “great election day” for Fianna Fáil nationally and in Cork. “To be honest, I didn’t expect the level of support I got,” he said.
Coveney took the third seat at the 11th count but Fine Gael’s agriculture minister failed to ensure Mr Buttimer would reach the quota due to a low number of first preferences.
The party vote in Cork South Central dropped by nearly nine points compared to 2011.
Mr Coveney defended the party’s electoral strategy in Cork South Central after he was elected. “The idea was to try and ensure our candidates were as close to each other as possible and that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
“Jerry Buttimer was very close to getting elected today but we just didn’t have enough combined votes to do that. You can’t do that on 26%, we needed to be on 28% or 29% to do that… and I think that’s the story in lots of constituencies around the country.”
“I feel very sorry for Jerry Buttimer who I think has been an extraordinarily hard worker for this constituency for the past five years.”
Mr Coveney picked up 7,965 first preferences and Buttimer 6,419 votes.
Mr Buttimer also suffered because of the redrawing of the constituency boundaries, which moved his Bishopstown heartland to Cork North West.
Ballyphehane-based Independent Mick Finn polled 2,378 votes and Green Party candidate Lorna Bogue took 2,064.
Mr McGrath topped the poll with 11,795 votes, while Mr Martin secured 11,346. The next highest vote were Mr Coveney, followed by Mr Ó Laoghaire at 6,986.
Fiona Ryan of AAA polled 975 votes while Renua’s Ciaran Kenneally polled 886. Diarmaid Ó Cadhla had 857 and Jim O’Connell (AAA/PBP) 778. Independent Joe Harris managed 359, Elizabeth Harris had 308, and Michael J Mohally 170.
The quota in Cork South Central was 11,137 and turnout was 66.4%.
Fianna Fáil’s vote rose in this constituency by 13.6 points on last time around, Fine Gael’s fell by 8.9 points, and Sinn Fein grew its vote by 4.3 points. The vote for Independents fell by 5 points in Cork South Central compared to 2011.