Mary Lou McDonald: My leadership of Sinn Fein is not in trouble

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at the count centre in Castlebar, Mayo, as the counting of votes continues in the European Parliamentary elections
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at the count centre in Castlebar, Mayo, as the counting of votes continues in the European Parliamentary elections
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Mary Lou McDonald has defended her position as leader of Sinn Fein after a bruising weekend at the polls.

Sinn Fein lost almost half their seats in the Republic of Ireland’s local council elections, the second election in Ms McDonald’s tenure as leader which has seen votes decrease.

There has been much media speculation in the interim that Ms McDonald must now fight to keep her position as party president.

When asked if her leadership was in trouble, Ms McDonald said: “No, I don’t believe so.

“I believe when you take on to lead an organisation such as ours - we’re a big organisation, we’re a national organisation - you have to steel yourself for the days that things don’t go your way and that really is a more direct test of a leader.

“It’s easy to lead when you’re on a surge, when things are going your way.

“The test comes when things don’t go right. The test comes when you have a situation that’s difficult, how do you handle that and how do you bring your party with you. And I’m determined to do that.

“I’m determined that we will learn the lessons and I’m determined that we will be back again.

“Any seat that we have lost, let me say, we will be back to win those seats back.”

Ms McDonald was speaking at the Castlebar count centre for the Midlands North West constituency, where incumbent Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy looked likely to return to Brussels in the third of the four seats.

Mr Carthy has conceded that his vote is down on the 2014 election, and told the Press Association that the party would “have to learn lessons fast”, in order to remedy the damage caused by the elections over the weekend.

Ms McDonald agreed with Mr Carthy, adding: “Obviously we have had a tough election in terms of the council seats that we have lost, and we’ve lost very good people, very fine public representatives and the party will have to reflect and gather ourselves and get back to work.”

Commentators have surmised that Sinn Fein has suffered due to a splintering of left-wing parties in the country, with smaller parties and independents gaining ground over established groups.

The shock elimination of former Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan in Dublin, where independent Clare Daly gained the seat, has been flagged by many as a mark of apathy towards the party in favour of a new left-leaning type of Irish politics, as well as a “Green surge” as the Dublin constituency voted overwhelmingly for environmental candidate Ciaran Cuffe.