Belfast Telegraph

Counting continues across Ireland with less than half of MEPs elected

Six of the 13 seats in the European Parliament were filled on Tuesday night.

Ballot papers at the count centre in Castlebar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ballot papers at the count centre in Castlebar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Counting is continuing in Ireland’s European elections with more than half of the MEPs still to be elected.

Six of the 13 seats in the European Parliament were filled by Tuesday night.

The count for the country’s local elections, which started a day earlier on Saturday, finally ended on Tuesday night with all 949 seats being filled.

Several of the vacant European berths are likely to be filled later on Wednesday – the fourth day of Euro counting – but counting could continue into Thursday.

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EU elections: Ireland/N Ireland results. See story POLL Ireland. Editable versions of this graphic are available via PA Graphics or your account manager. Infographic by PA Graphics

In the South constituency in the Euro count, the first candidate was finally elected on Tuesday, with former GAA president Sean Kelly taking a seat for Fine Gael.

In Midlands North West, Fine Gael also had cause to celebrate the previous night with the re-election of outgoing MEP Mairead McGuinness.

In the South constituency, which has been allocated the other of Ireland’s two additional MEPs in Europe after Brexit, there is a battle between Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher, Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan and Independents4Change candidate Mick Wallace to claim the second seat.

Outgoing Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada, and Fine Gael’s outgoing MEP Deirdre Clune are also still in the running.

In the Midlands North West, Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan looks likely to return to the European Parliament with Ms McGuinness, telling journalists it was a “certainty”.

No-one was elected in the constituency on Tuesday after a long day of waiting in Castlebar, with Green Party rising star Saoise McHugh eliminated around 1am on Wednesday morning.

Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy, Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh – a former Rose of Tralee, and ex-presidential candidate Peter Casey, who is standing as an Independent, are also vying for the three seats that remain unfilled.

I'm certainly confident at this stage that Matt (Carthy) will be returned to the European Parliament Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald visited the count centre to meet with Mr Carthy, who is tipped to take the third seat.

Speaking to Press Association, she said: “Although it’s not over till it’s over, I’m certainly confident at this stage that Matt will be returned to the European Parliament and I want to congratulate him for a very positive campaign in  huge constituency, our local elections candidates, councillors worked incredibly hard, as did their families.”

The Dublin constituency count is the only one to have concluded, with the process taking much longer in Ireland’s other two European constituencies – South and Midlands North West.

In Dublin, the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe, former Fine Gael tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Frances Fitzgerald, Clare Daly of Independents4Change and Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews took the four seats.

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Ciaran Cuffe took a seat in Dublin (Julien Behal/PA)

Mr Cuffe and Mrs Fitzgerald confirmed their tickets to Brussels and Strasbourg on Monday but Mrs Daly and Mr Andrews were involved in a dispute over who would come in third and fourth place

The issue revolved around whether transferred votes from eliminated Sinn Fein candidate Lynn Boylan should be distributed, even though Mr Andrews and Mrs Daly were already confirmed elected.

It mattered because the fourth seat was one of two additional European Parliament places Ireland has been allocated as a result of Brexit.

As the UK is still to leave the EU, the holders of those two seats will essentially have to sit on the subs bench and will only become confirmed MEPs once Brexit happens.

After exchanges involving lawyers and electoral officials, Mrs Boylan’s votes were ultimately distributed on Tuesday – an exercise that handed Mrs Daly the prized third seat.

Mr Andrews still said his result was “brilliant and satisfying” and claimed it was proof that the electorate was “listening” to the Fianna Fail message again.

He added: “I’m not too sure what interim arrangements are going to be made but you get on with life.”

Ms Boylan’s defeat came as another blow for Sinn Fein, which has had a dismal performance at the European and council polls.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar hailed his party’s performance as the best in decades, insisting it was in with a shout of taking five seats.

“The European elections are shaping up to be very good for Fine Gael.

“We have about 30% of the vote, which is our biggest and best result since 1984,” he said ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels.

In the council election counts, which were finalised on Tuesday night, Fianna Fail retained its position as the largest party at local government level, with Fine Gael not making the gains it had hoped for.

The Green Party enjoyed a surge in support, while Sinn Fein lost a raft of councillors.

Voters delivered a resounding Yes vote on Friday to liberalise Ireland’s divorce laws, with the length of time separated couples must wait to obtain a formal divorce set to be halved.

There were also plebiscites in Cork, Waterford and Limerick on government proposals for directly elected mayors with executive functions.

Voters in Cork and Waterford rejected the idea but Limerick voted in favour.

In the European election in Northern Ireland, the cross-community Alliance Party registered another electoral upset when leader Naomi Long took the second seat.

Incumbent MEPs Diane Dodds, of the DUP, and Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson secured the other two seats in Monday’s count.

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