Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

Alliance's Long narrow favourite to take third seat in Euro poll

Alliance leader Naomi Long
Alliance leader Naomi Long

By Suzanne Breen, political editor

Voters go to the polls today in what is one of the most competitive EU elections in Northern Ireland in decades.

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and the DUP's Diane Dodds are expected to be safely returned to Brussels.

Alliance leader Naomi Long is the bookies' favourite to take the final seat from the Ulster Unionists, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also mounting a strong challenge.

Eleven candidates are vying for three seats. The 614 polling stations across Northern Ireland open at 7am and close at 10pm. Voters must have valid photographic ID.

The election is being conducted by Single Transferable Vote, a proportional representation system. Turnout in the 2014 EU election here was 52%. The verification of ballot papers takes place tomorrow but counting won't begin in Magherafelt Leisure Centre until Monday.

A lengthy count is expected which could continue overnight or be postponed until Tuesday morning if a full result looks some way off.

Bookmakers Paddy Power last night had Mrs Long as 5/6 favourite for the third seat, followed by Mr Eastwood at 2/1 and the UUP's Danny Kennedy on 11/4.

In an eve of poll message, Mr Kennedy said: "I'm urging people to come out and vote Danny Kennedy 1 to deliver a sensible Brexit and secure Northern Ireland's position within the UK. This is a time to demand an end to uncertainty and vote for stability. Don't let someone else decide your future and the future of the UK by not voting."

Mrs Long said: "Brexit is not an orange or green issue and I'm not an orange or green politician. That is why Alliance is picking up support from right across our community. An Alliance voice in the European Parliament will say we have truly seen a watershed in local politics, where people reject the politics of division and fear."

The wife of former SDLP leader John Hume urged voters to support Colum Eastwood to win back the seat once held by her husband.

European elections by numbers
European elections by numbers

Pat Hume said: "We need another passionate advocate for Europe and for Northern Ireland's place in Europe. I believe that Colum Eastwood is that advocate."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "My overriding priority on the national issue will be to haste our overdue Brexit. I will readily work with the Brexit Party in this pursuit. A clean Brexit is required and no-deal is now the only viable route to an ultimate deal, as such will bring Brussels to the table.

"I invite unionists to speak through their number one vote the essential message that 'Out means Out'."

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