Belfast Telegraph

Just two MEPs elected in Ireland as second day of counting draws to close

Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness and the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe will serve in Brussels.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) with Fine Gael candidate Frances Fitzgerald and Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) with Fine Gael candidate Frances Fitzgerald and Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell (Brian Lawless/PA)

Two seats in the European election in Ireland have been filled by Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness and the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe.

Incumbent Ms McGuinness topped the poll with 134,630 first-preference votes and was re-elected in the Midlands Northwest constituency.

After topping his poll with 63,849 first-preference votes, Mr Cuffe was finally elected on the 13th round of the mammoth count in the Dublin constituency.

He hailed the win as “an auspicious day” for the Greens in Ireland as the party hammered home wins in both European and local elections.

“Today and this weekend shows young people want to see change,” he said in Dublin’s count centre in Simmonscourt.

“They have spoken to their parents and grandparents and the people have voted for an alternative to business as usual.

“I am really heartened by the result this evening but I am so heartened by the (election of) 48 Green Party councillors around the country.

“This is an auspicious day and a new beginning for the Irish Green Party.”

There are three seats left to be filled, with Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald expected to take the second seat.

Ms McGuinness said she had already drawn up a to-do list for Brussels and thanked everyone who voted for her.

She said she was “delighted, relieved and a bit tired”.

With the second day of counting almost over, Ms McGuinness and Mr Cuffe remain the only two MEPs elected in the Republic.

Independent MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan came second to Ms McGuinness in Midlands Northwest with 85,034 first-preference votes.

Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy was third on 77,619 and Ms McGuinness’ running mate Maria Walsh received 64,500.

Independent Peter Casey beat Green Party candidate Saoirse McHugh with 56,650. Ms McHugh received 51,019.

A total of 3.5% of all the votes cast in the constituency were spoiled.

The voting system, single transferable vote, in the European election means counting could run on until Wednesday.

There was a major surge in support for the Green Party on the first day of counting, with candidates expected to take seats in all three constituencies.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is confident his party will take three seats, adding he was “on the hunt” for two more.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein is facing challenging results in Ireland in both the European and local elections, with huge losses in several councils.

Irish voters will elect 13 MEPs but two will face an uncertain wait over when they can take their seats due to the Brexit delay.

The Republic will receive two of Britain’s 27 seats when it leaves the EU. They are being redistributed among 14 member states.

The UK is participating in the poll, with British MEPs set to attend the inaugural plenary session of the new Parliament on July 2.

As a result, those elected in last place in Ireland’s Dublin and South constituencies must wait to see when they can take their seats.

Local council elections were also held across Ireland on Friday and counting in those races continued on Monday.

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Charlie Flanagan will now seek to amend the Family Law (Divorce) Act (Liam McBurney/PA)

Meanwhile, a landslide Yes vote to liberalise Ireland’s divorce laws was confirmed in the early hours of Sunday.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is now set to bring forward a bill to amend Section 5 of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period to two years.

The European election count for Ireland’s three constituencies – Dublin, South, and Midlands Northwest – started on Sunday morning at centres in Dublin, Cork and Castlebar, Co Mayo.

The European and local government elections are the first electoral test for Ireland’s main parties since the inconclusive General Election of 2016.

The result delivered a hung parliament and precipitated months of negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, two parties with a century-old enmity dating back to Ireland’s Civil War.

A historic accord emerged in which Fianna Fail agreed to support a minority Fine Gael-led government through a confidence and supply deal for three years.

The parties renewed that arrangement late last year, extending what has been dubbed an era of “new politics” until early 2020.

While Friday’s elections focused on European and council issues, the results will no doubt be interpreted as a public judgment on Fine Gael’s performance in government and how effectively Fianna Fail has managed the delicate balancing act of holding an administration to account while at the same time propping it up.

PA

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