Belfast Telegraph

Candidates whittled down as count continues in Ireland South

Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle, Labour’s Sheila Nunan and Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Byrne have been knocked out of the race.

Counting is well into a fourth day in Ireland South (Michelle Devane/PA)
Counting is well into a fourth day in Ireland South (Michelle Devane/PA)

The Ireland South race in the European election has heated up on the fourth day of counting.

Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle and Labour’s Sheila Nunan were knocked out of the race in the five-seat European Parliament constituency on Wednesday morning after the 15th count.

Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Byrne was eliminated on the 16th count.

Party colleague Billy Kelleher took the second seat and was elected as an MEP on Wednesday evening.

Mr Kelleher was elected from Mr Byrne’s transfers.

Independents 4 Change candidate Mick Wallace looks set to take the next seat in the coming counts.

The race for the fifth seat, the “Brexit” seat, remains tight and cannot be taken up until Britain leaves the EU.

Fine Gael’s incumbent MEP Deirdre Clune is in fourth place, while Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan remains fifth followed by Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada.

Speaking at the count, Ms O’Sullivan said: “I was looking for a little miracle and it has happened.

“We knew all along that the Shield Nunan/Labour vote would be a good transfer. We expected that there would be a green vote coming out of Andrew Doyle’s because of Wicklow and that strong green position in Wicklow so I got that absolute boost.

“Now I am feeling very confident but it still has a way to go. Happy days so far.”

Sinn Fein remain confident that their candidate can take a seat.

Speaking at the count centre, Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O’Brien said he still believed they were “in a very strong position”.

Asked if the party would be disappointed if Ms Ni Riada ends up taking the fifth seat, he said: “A seat is a seat, we set out to win a seat. If it’s the fifth seat obviously we will need to analyse the impact that has because nobody is exactly sure what the fifth seat entails yet.”

The mammoth count at Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Co Cork is set to run into a fifth day. It could be Thursday evening before the count wraps up.

Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly became the first person elected in the constituency on Tuesday afternoon after topping the poll with 119,883 votes.

The Kerryman, who was first elected as an MEP in 2009, topped the poll in the first count with 118,444 first preference votes, but he failed to reach the quota of 119,866.

It was the ninth count before he surpassed the quota by 17 votes to take the first seat.

The former GAA president hailed the win as “probably the greatest moment in my political career to be returned top of the poll by so many people”.

The count, which began on Sunday, has been delayed by the sheer size and volume of the 2ft long ballot papers featuring 23 candidates.

Ireland South, which has an electorate of 1.4 million, had a total poll of 755,000 votes.

It means some 200 staff have been struggling to grapple with 750,000 ballot papers, weighing 7.5 tonnes.

PA

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