This blog comes from the count centre at Stranorlar in County Donegal. Senator Pearse Doherty is about to be declared the new Teachta Dála for Donegal South West.
Everybody here knows that.
But before it becomes a reality the votes have to be counted. The place is buzzing. Over a hundred members of the media – some say as many as 153 – including many international media, are in attendance.
This day has been a long time coming for some of the old timers. For decades they have been tramping up and down the highways and byways of this constituency arguing for republican politics and a united Ireland.
Last time round in 2007 Pearse hit the cross bar. So too did Padraig McLaughlin in the adjoining Donegal constituency. The two of them narrowly missed out winning seats.
But a by-election is a different creature. It’s even harder to win.
This blog never doubted that we would be successful. There’s a great team here. There wouldn’t be a by-election at all if Pearse and Sinn Féin hadn’t gone to the High Court.
Pearse is a wonderful candidate. But arguably all of the candidates are fine representatives for their parties. So the people didn’t have to vote for Pearse. They had a choice and they chose wisely.
They voted in their thousands for Pearse Doherty and Sinn Féin.
The count centre is loud with the northern lilt of Donegal Irish. Local people slip easily from béarla to gaeilge. Martin McGuinness is here. Later he heads off to London for a Sinn Féin fundraiser. So was Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin . And Mary Lou MacDonald. The Sinn Féin Mayor of Donegal Councillor Cora Harvey and Gráinne Mhic Géidigh, the Sinn Féin representative on Údarás na Gaeltachta is here also. And other Donegal councillors, including Councillor Marie Therese Gallagher. There was also Gerry McIvor and his formidable team of Sinn Féin election workers scattered across the county. And Padraig McLaughlin and Pat Doherty the MP for west Tyrone. And me. And your man.
The counting proceeds slowly. Rumours of an announcement whirl around like leaves in the wind. The Tánaiste Mary Coughlan TD concedes defeat on behalf of the government in mid afternoon. But we all hang in waiting for the formal and official result.
The message from the election is clear. It’s time for the government to go. Its time also for the those who consider themselves to be the next government to review their position, particularly Labour which has tied itself to Fine Gael. A disastrous position for a party which professes to care for disadvantaged people and those who will be most cruelly affected by Fine Gael’s economic policy.
Some are dismissing Pearse’s as a protest vote. It is not that. It is against the government. It is against the Fianna Fáil and Green Party four year plan and against those parties like Fine Gael and Labour who have bought into this timeframe.
But it’s also a vote for genuine republican values. For Sinn Fein’s sensible proposals to stimulate the economy by creating jobs not ending them. It’s a vote for a republic in which people are sovereign and have their rights and entitlements upheld by society and the state.
Pearse’s wife Roísín is here. Their three boys come in for a wee while Padraig and Colm give cheerful thumbs up and chant ‘Pearse Doherty uimhir a h’aon’. Ronan is too young to understand what is happening. Or maybe not. He lies comfortably in his mammy’s arms.
Pearse’s parents Miceál and Grainne are here also. They are as proud as punch. And for very good reason.
To while away the time your man starts singing ‘Óró, Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile’. Before he gets beyond the chorus a hundred and fifty republican voices raise the roof with ‘Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh’.
And then Pearse is announced as the TD for Donegal South West and the place erupts with cheering and clapping and loud whistles.
Padraig McLaughlin tries to hoist Pearse on his shoulders – Padraig’s not Pearse’s.
Roísín is crying. So is your man. ‘He ain’t heavy’ Padraig whispers to me, ‘he’s my brother’.
And so he is. He’s also the peoples TD.
Sinn Féin Abú!