Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore may face a threat to his position after the Meath East by-election which saw Helen McEntee win her late father Shane’s seat.

McEntee, whose father took his own life after Christmas, topped the poll with 11,473 votes. Byrne restored Fianna Fail’s standing as he took 9,582 votes.

O’Rourke was third on 3,370 votes with Gilroy surprising everyone with 1,793 votes for the new Direct Democracy Ireland grouping.

Holmes attracted just 1,245 first preference votes from the 24,309 valid votes in a constituency with 64,164 eligible to vote.

Fine Gael leader Kenny paid tribute to the 26-year-old McEntee after her win.

Kenny said: “Helen’s victory is a stupendous performance in the face of probably the most difficult economic circumstances our country has ever faced.

“I have never seen a by-election taking place in such challenging circumstances. To say I am delighted is an understatement. I really am proud of what Helen McEntee has achieved here.

“His is a vote by the people of Meath East but this is not just a vote in respect of her late dad, Shane McEntee. They know Helen is a formidable candidate in her own right.”

McEntee described her win as ‘bittersweet’. She said: “You had faith in Dad and I’m just absolutely delighted you had faith in me and if I’m half the TD that he was I’ll be happy.”

The election results represented a triumph of sorts for a reborn Fianna Fail, on 32.5 per cent of the vote, with Labour the big losers.

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Gilmore is under attack from within his own party after the Labour vote collapsed in Wednesday’s election.

Candidate Eoin Holmes polled just over a thousand votes and less than five per cent of the overall vote.

He was well beaten by second placed Thomas Byrne from Fianna Fail while Sinn Fein’s Darren O’Rourke and unknown independent Ben Gilroy also finished ahead of the Labour candidate.

The party had won 21 per cent of the vote when Meath East returned Dominic Hannigan to the parliament in the 2011 general election.

Labour deputies have already criticised the impact of Gilmore’s leadership of the party as its coalition status impacted negatively with voters in Meath East.

One deputy, who asked not to be named, told the Irish Times:  “The people who devised the silly Tesco ad in the general election came up with a stupid leaflet insulting Enda Kenny in the final days of this campaign.

“The only conclusion is that there has to be a change of personnel if we are to have any chance of recovering.”

The leaflet – which compared Enda Kenny to Gerry Adams and Bertie Ahern – has not gone down well with senior government party Fine Gael or members of the Labour Party.

The deputy added: “This was a juvenile response to a difficult situation which was created by the very same people in the Labour Party who tried to fight this by-election on issues like gay marriage rather than the economy.”

Helen McEnteeHandout