Belfast Telegraph

Full recount could leave Ireland South without MEPs until July

The process is expected to take 28 working days.

The initial Ireland South European election count (Michelle Devane/PA)
The initial Ireland South European election count (Michelle Devane/PA)

The Ireland South constituency may be left without representation in Europe for more than a month as a full recount gets under way.

A recount of all 755,000 ballots was ordered as Sinn Fein and the Green Party battled it out for the final European Parliament seat in the country.

The process is expected to take 28 working days.

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Liadh Ni Riada, who was 327 votes behind Grace O’Sullivan (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ni Riada made the request for a recount and recheck on Wednesday night when just 327 votes separated her and the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan on the 18th count.

Despite a recheck of Ms Ni Riada and Ms O’Sullivan’s 200,000 ballot papers on Thursday changing the outcome by just one vote, Sinn Fein pressed ahead with the request for a full recount.

Returning Officer Martin Harvey said on Thursday: “Having completed the recheck of Liadh Ni Riada and Grace O’Sullivan’s papers, Liadh Ni Riada has confirmed that she wishes to proceed with a full recount of all the papers.”

After the announcement, he said: “It’s difficult but it can be overcome and we will overcome it and we will do it. But unfortunately it will take time.”

He described it as a “democracy in action”.

The count at Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Co Cork was adjourned on Thursday afternoon five days after counting first began.

The mammoth task of checking ballots of the 12-count constituency will resume on Tuesday at 9am.

Sinn Fein’s director of elections Jonathan O’Brien defended the party’s decision to call for the recount, saying he estimated only 2% of all the total ballots had been checked.

He added the only way of knowing for certain whether the outcome would change was by the recount being conducted.

It's a tough day for them (Sinn Fein) but it is disappointing that we are proceeding with this Election agent Ed Davitt

Ms O’Sullivan’s election agent Ed Davitt said he did not believe the outcome of the recount would deliver a different result.

He told RTE News: “It’s understandable from Sinn Fein’s point of view. There’s absolutely no bad blood, that goes without saying.

“It’s a tough day for them but it is disappointing that we are proceeding with this.”

Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly and Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher took the first two seats in the five-seat constituency earlier in the week.

Independents 4 Change candidate Mick Wallace looks set to take the third seat with 112,441 votes.

The race for the fourth seat and fifth – the so-called “Brexit seat” – has been tight throughout the count.

Following the 18th count, Fine Gael’s incumbent MEP Deidre Clune was in fourth place with 101,012 votes and Ms O’Sullivan was in the running for the fifth seat on 98,706. Ms Ni Riada followed closely behind on 98,379.

The fifth seat cannot be taken up until the UK leaves the EU.

Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle, Labour’s Sheila Nunan and Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Byrne were eliminated on Wednesday.

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  ballot papers weighing 7.5 tonnes.

PA

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