European election recount could take one month to complete

A full recount of one of Ireland’s three European election constituencies could take more than a month to complete.

Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ni Riada requested a recheck and recount as she was about to be eliminated on Wednesday after the 18th round of counting in the Ireland South constituency.

A recheck of Mrs Ni Riada’s votes and Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan’s ballots was completed on Thursday morning, after which returning officer Martin Harvey confirmed that a full recount of all 755,000 votes would go ahead next week.

The counting is to commence again at 9am on Tuesday in the Cork city count centre.

Outgoing MEP Mrs Ni Riada, who unsuccessfully ran for Ireland’s presidency last year, was on the verge of becoming Sinn Fein’s second high profile casualty of the Euro poll.

Sitting MEP Lynn Boylan also lost her seat in Dublin in what is shaping up to be a disastrous election for the republican party.

“Such a close election,” party president Mary Lou McDonald tweeted in response to news of the recount.

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Two people had already been elected in the constituency – Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly and Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher.

Independents4Change candidate Mick Wallace, Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune and Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan had been vying with Mrs Ni Riada for the constituency’s remaining three seats.

Ireland’s two other constituencies have concluded counting, with eight MEPs having been elected.

Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan was returned above the quota in Midlands North West on Wednesday evening, joining Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness in booking a return trip to Brussels and Strasbourg.

Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy, also an existing MEP, and Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh, a former Rose of Tralee, were also both elected at the Castlebar count, though under the quota.

The eventual winner of the last seat in the South constituency will be one of two “cold storage” MEPs returned by Ireland. The country has been allocated two additional European Parliament places as a result of Brexit.

As the UK is still to leave the EU, the holders of those two seats will essentially have to sit on the subs bench and will only become confirmed MEPs once Brexit happens.

Barry Andrews of Fianna Fail has already taken one of the two added seats, having finished in fourth place in the Dublin constituency count, which finished on Tuesday afternoon.

The Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe, former Fine Gael tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Frances Fitzgerald and Clare Daly of Independents4Change took the first three seats in Dublin.

While the European election count started on Sunday, counting in Ireland’s local council elections started a day earlier.

The counts for the 949 council seats, which stretched from Saturday morning to Tuesday night, saw Fianna Fail retain 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 lost a raft of councillors.

Voters delivered a resounding Yes vote on Friday to liberalise Ireland’s divorce laws, with the length of time separated couples must wait to obtain a formal divorce set to be halved.

There were also plebiscites in Cork, Waterford and Limerick on government proposals for directly elected mayors with executive functions.

Voters in Cork and Waterford rejected the idea but Limerick voted in favour.

In the European election in Northern Ireland, the cross-community Alliance Party registered another electoral upset when leader Naomi Long took the second seat.

Incumbent MEPs Diane Dodds, of the DUP, and Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson secured the other two seats in Monday’s count.