Election count set to reach fifth day in Ireland

Marathon election counts in Ireland are set to roll into a fifth day with fewer than half of the country’s Euro MPs elected so far.

Six of the 13 seats in the European Parliament were filled on Tuesday night – three days into the count.

The count for the country’s local elections, which started a day earlier on Saturday, finally ended on Tuesday night with all 949 seats being filled.

Several of the vacant European berths are likely to be filled on Wednesday – the fourth day of Euro counting – but counting could continue into Thursday.

Ciaran Cuffe
Ciaran Cuffe

The Dublin constituency count is the only one to have concluded, with the process taking much longer in Ireland’s other two European constituencies – South and Midlands North West.

In Dublin, the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe, former Fine Gael tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Frances Fitzgerald, Clare Daly of Independents4Change, and Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews took the four seats.

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

Mr Cuffe and Mrs Fitzgerald confirmed their tickets to Brussels and Strasbourg on Monday, but Mrs Daly and Mr Andrews were involved in a dispute over who would come in third and fourth place

The issue revolved around whether transferred votes from eliminated Sinn Fein candidate Lynn Boylan should be distributed, even though Mr Andrews and Mrs Daly were already confirmed elected.

It mattered because the fourth seat was one of two additional European Parliament places Ireland has been allocated as a result of Brexit.

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

After exchanges involving lawyers and electoral officials, Mrs Boylan’s votes were ultimately distributed on Tuesday – an exercise that handed Mrs Daly the prized third seat.

Clare Daly
Clare Daly

Mr Andrews still said his result was “brilliant and satisfying” and claimed it was proof that the electorate was “listening” to the Fianna Fail message again.

He added: “I’m not too sure what interim arrangements are going to be made but you get on with life.”

Mrs Boylan’s defeat came as another blow for Sinn Fein, which has had a dismal performance at the European and council polls.

In the South constituency in the Euro count, the first candidate was finally elected on Tuesday, with former GAA president Sean Kelly taking a seat for Fine Gael.

In Midlands North West, Fine Gael also had cause to celebrate the previous night with the re-election of outgoing MEP Mairead McGuinness.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar hailed his party’s performance as the best in decades, insisting it was in with a shout of taking five seats.

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

“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 ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels.

In the South constituency, which has been allocated the other of Ireland two additional places in Europe, there is a battle between Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher and Independents4Change candidate Mick Wallace to claim the second seat.

Outgoing Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada, the Greens’ Grace O’Sullivan, Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Byrne, and Fine Gael’s outgoing MEP Deirdre Clune are all battling for the remaining seats.

In the Midlands North West, Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan looks likely to return to the European Parliament with Ms McGuinness, telling journalists it was a “certainty”.

No one was elected in the constituency on Tuesday after a long day of waiting in Castlebar.

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

In the council election counts, which were finalised on Tuesday night, Fianna Fail 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 lost a raft of 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 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.