Belfast Telegraph

Fine Gael EU poll performance best since 1984: Taoiseach

Mairead McGuinness (left) with friend Deirdre O’Hea in Castlebar
Mairead McGuinness (left) with friend Deirdre O’Hea in Castlebar

By PA Reporters

Six seats in the European elections in the Irish Republic have been filled.

Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly took the first seat in the Ireland South constituency, joining Mairead McGuinness, Frances Fitzgerald, Clare Daly, Barry Andrews and Ciaran Cuffe.

The former GAA president was elected on the ninth count with 119,883 votes, after surpassing the quota of 119,866.

It is now a battle between Fianna Fail's Billy Kelleher and Independents4Change candidate Mick Wallace to claim the second seat.

Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan was eliminated from the Dublin constituency and her votes were redistributed following a dispute over the transfer of votes.

Independents4Change TD Ms Daly took the third seat, while Fianna Fail's Mr Andrews will take Dublin's fourth seat, one of two extras Ireland has been allocated in the wake of Brexit.

Mr Andrews will not be travelling to Brussels to begin work as an MEP until the UK leaves the EU.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Daly said: "I hope to bring the same fighting ability that I demonstrate in the Dail. I really wanted the mandate of the Dublin electorate to be respected, so I was quite prepared if Lynn Boylan's votes had put me out; I would have lived with that."

Earlier yesterday, a recount was ordered following a request from the Fianna Fail candidate.

Green Party candidate Mr Cuffe and Fine Gael's Ms Fitzgerald have both secured their seats in this constituency.

In the Midlands North West constituency, Fine Gael's Ms McGuinness topped the poll and was elected on Monday.

Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan also looks likely to return to the European Parliament with Ms McGuinness, however no one was elected in the constituency after a long day of waiting in Castlebar yesterday.

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

The Taoiseach has hailed Fine Gael's performance at the European elections as the "biggest and best" for 35 years. Leo Varadkar insisted his party was still in the hunt for 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.

"Contrast that with Fianna Fail who are having one of their lowest vote shares ever."

Yesterday evening counting looked likely to finish in the local elections with the last remaining of the Republic's 949 council seats to be filled.

Fianna Fail has 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 suffered a bruising poll, losing many councillors.

Friday's election day also saw voters deliver a resounding Yes vote to liberalise Ireland's divorce laws, with the length of time separated couples must wait to obtain a formal divorce now set to be halved.

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