TWENTY-One years after his father was killed in a car accident Independent John O’Donnell (33) put in an awesome campaign to take the second seat in the Letterkenny-Milford Electoral Area.
O’Donnell, a businessman from Kilmacrennan, polled 1,641 first preference votes- to finish just 80 behind the Fianna Fail poll topper Cllr Liam Blaney, according to tally figures.
For Blaney, part of a political dynasty that stretches back to the foundation of the state, it was the second time he topped the poll having done so in 2004, but lost out to Ciaran Brogan of Fiannas Fail in 2009.
However, this was John O’Donnell’s day and the celebrations are expected to continue for some time to come. His father, Eddie, was a former Mayor of Donegal and first elected to Donegal County Council in 1985.
He topped the poll in 1991 and was widely tipped to be in the race for a Dail seat until he was killed near Grange, Co Sligo, in June, 1993.
“The O’Donnell name is still strong in Donegal and Eddie O’Donnell’s legacy is huge,” an emotional Cllr O’Donnell told the Donegal News.
“My father only had eight years in office but everywhere I went on the campaign trail his name came up on the doorsteps. People talked so highly of him- I sometimes wonder how he managed to do so much work,” he said.
“I’m overwhelmed by the response. It has been a roller coaster 15 weeks for me on the campaign but it was an exceptional result for us on an Independent ticket without the support of the political parties,”
“I’m in the wool business and out meeting farmers every day and putting money into their pockets instead of taking it away. Hopefully now we can form a strong pact of Independents and hold the balance of power in Lifford,” he added.
Overall, it was a satisfactory day for Fianna Fail. With four candidates in the field, they elected three councillors and polled almost 5,000 votes between them to garner 28 per cent of the vote.
Cllr Liam Blaney, secured 1,724 first preferences to top the poll while Cllr Ciaran Brogan had the third highest vote at 1,660 and his party colleague and first time candidate James ‘Pat’ McDaid got a staggering 1,247.
In 2009 the party had 40 per cent of the first preference vote but notably there were 22 candidates in the field this time, eight more than five years ago.
“Listen, I topped the poll, but my vote is down by 500 votes largely because of the number of candidates in the field. I’m delighted to top the poll and keep the Blaney name to the fore,” Cllr Blaney said.
The big winners in the electoral area were Independents and Sinn Fein who secured 45 per cent and 12 per cent of the first preferences respectively
Sinn Fein’s two candidates Cllr Mick Quinn (1,070) and Town Cllr Gerry McMonagle (1,160) put in a strong show with the latter first past the post.
For Fine Gael it was a dark day with their two candidates Cllr Noel McBride and Jimmy Kavanagh fighting it out to get a seat with around 880 votes each.