Belfast Telegraph

Kelly looking strong to be named first Ireland South MEP after counting resumes

First count results from the constituency are not expected until Monday afternoon.

Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly (Julien Behal/PA)
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly (Julien Behal/PA)

A two-foot long ballot paper is slowing counting in the Ireland South European election count centre, where outgoing Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly looks set to become the first candidate to take a seat.

Mr Kelly said he was “hopeful” of retaining his seat and described it as “encouraging to be there or thereabouts”.

An RTE/TG4 exit poll predicted Mr Kelly will top the poll with 16% of first preferences, followed by Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada and Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher, both of whom are on 13%, while the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan is on 12% of first preference votes.

“We put in a hard campaign, a long campaign…. Sometimes people say people don’t notice what’s going on in Europe, but I think if I do well it’s an example to everybody that if you work hard people will notice,” Mr Kelly said on his arrival at Cork count centre on Sunday evening.

More than 200 staff began sub-sorting ballot papers at the centre in Nemo Rangers GAA Club on Sunday morning.

But, with more than 750,000 papers to be counted, staff wrapped up for the night at about 11pm without any results.

No tallies were conducted.

First count results from the constituency are not expected until Monday afternoon.

Indications are it may take until Thursday before the five seats are allocated.

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Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ni Riada said she was hopeful of retaining her MEP seat, but she said she did not consider herself a shoe-in.

“You’re never fully confident, and you’re just hopeful. That’s exactly the position I’m in now,” she said.  “It’s not over until all the votes are counted.”

She added: “I’m not putting my eggs in one basket and thinking that I’m a shoe-in. We’ll have to wait and see.”

While it is expected that Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher will win a seat, it is set to be a worrying few days for the Green’s Grace O’Sullivan, Independents 4 Change candidate Mick Wallace and Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune – who will most likely battle for the last seat.

Mr Kelly said he believed Fine Gael was “very much in contention” to retain two seats, despite exit poll results showing the party’s candidates, outgoing Ms Clune and first-time EU candidate Andrew Doyle, potentially being in difficulty.

The RTE/TG4 exit poll put Ms Clune on 9% first preference votes and Mr Doyle on 4%.

It indicated that Mr Wallace had 10%, just 1% more than Fianna Fail’s Malcom Byrne.

“Transfers have a big bearing on a constituency and particularly when you have 23 candidates where there is going to be a whole pile of transfers and if they fall the right way they’re going to push up candidates quite a lot,” Mr Kelly added.

Ms O’Sullivan said she had worked “very hard” and that she was hoping she would “get that surge” in the end.

She added that there was a “lot of green washing going on” by other parties during the elections, but she believed voters had seen through this.

Of all of the three European election constituencies, transfers will be most important in Ireland South.

It could see candidates like Mr Byrne or Mr Doyle surge past other candidates.

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