Ireland

Two MEPs lose seats as Fianna Fail eyes gains

Fianna Fail has retained its two seats, and is on track to obtain at least one more.

Green Party candidate Grace O’Sullivan was eliminated on Thursday
Green Party candidate Grace O’Sullivan was eliminated on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail has retained its seats in the European Parliament, as a fifth day of counting also saw two MEPs lose their place.

Sinn Fein representative Chris MacManus was eliminated from the running in Midlands-North-West as the party claimed his running mate had a “fighting chance” of reclaiming the seat while the Green’s Grace O’Sullivan was excluded from the running in Ireland South.

Both had sat as MEPs in the Left grouping within the Parliament.

Meanwhile in Ireland South, Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher was re-elected as an MEP, calling it a “crowning” moment.

Billy Kelleher speaks to a member of An Garda Siochana as he awaits count results
Billy Kelleher speaks to a member of An Garda Siochana as he awaits count results (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He celebrated with his family, colleagues and Tanaiste Micheal Martin, who said the party was hopeful of clinching a second seat in the South constituency.

Occurring after the re-election of Barry Andrews in Dublin, it means Fianna Fail has held on to its two seats in Europe with the possibility of claiming two more.

In Midlands-North-West, left-wing independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan was re-elected on the 19th count.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan speaking at the TF Royal Theatre count centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan speaking at the TF Royal Theatre count centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo (Niall Carson/PA)

The first MEP to be elected for the region in the days-long count made a vow to constituents: “I’m certainly not going to let you down, you’ve been let down too often – you’re not going to be let down by me.”

The lengthy counting of ballot papers continues in Ireland, with seven MEPs left to be elected in the final counts at two massive constituencies.

Irish voters headed to the polls last Friday to pick 949 local councillors, 14 members of the European Parliament and the country’s first directly elected mayor.

Sean Kelly celebrates with friends, family and supporters after becoming the first MEP to be elected in Ireland’s European elections
Sean Kelly celebrates with friends, family and supporters after becoming the first MEP to be elected in Ireland’s European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Results emerging from the three elections have been seen as a political boon for coalition partners Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, while the largest opposition party, Sinn Fein, has initiated a review after performing well below its own expectations.

In the European elections, Sinn Fein is expected to increase its tally of MEPs despite Mr MacManus being eliminated from the running on Thursday morning.

Sinn Fein’s Chris MacManus was eliminated from the running on Thursday morning
Sinn Fein’s Chris MacManus was eliminated from the running on Thursday morning (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

Unpredictable transfers, which political commentators said were not following traditional patterns, are adding to the drama of who will claim the final seats.

In Ireland South, Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly was deemed elected after the first count on Monday but it has taken days to fill the other positions.

Sinn Fein TD Kathleen Funchion has remained in a good position to take a seat after attracting 60% of her running mate’s transfers on Wednesday, as well as transfers from the Social Democrats’ Susan Doyle.

Independent TD Michael McNamara is also in a good position to take a seat.

Outgoing MEP Mick Wallace
Outgoing MEP Mick Wallace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Fianna Fail candidate and 1994 Eurovision host Cynthia Ni Mhurchu and outgoing MEP Mick Wallace are battling it out for the final seat, which are to be decided by the redistribution of votes for Ms O’Sullivan’s votes.

Ms O’Sullivan voiced her concerns about Ireland’s representation in the European Parliament on climate issues without any Green MEP – after her party colleagues were eliminated in the other constituencies, including Ciaran Cuffe who failed to retain his seat in Dublin.

Sinn Fein candidate Kathleen Funchion in the count centre
Sinn Fein candidate Kathleen Funchion in the count centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

Calling her comments “the swan song”, she said it was up to government parties to speak up on the need for action to tackle climate change.

In Midlands-North-West, the top three candidates for the remaining four seats are in a tight grouping going into the last counts.

They are Fine Gael candidates Nina Carberry, a former jockey, and Maria Walsh, who is seeking re-election, followed by Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen.

Mr Cowen is likely to be helped significantly by transfers from his running mate Lisa Chambers despite the party’s campaign in the constituency being marred by infighting.

Michelle Gildernew from Sinn Fein listens to the results at the TF Royal Theatre
Michelle Gildernew from Sinn Fein listens to the results at the TF Royal Theatre (Niall Carson/PA)

It leaves Independent Ireland candidate and former RTE correspondent Ciaran Mullooly fighting it out with Sinn Fein representative Michelle Gildernew for the fifth and final seat.

On Tuesday night, the four MEPs who will represent Dublin in the European Parliament were elected at the end of three days of counting.

Fianna Fail candidate Barry Andrews was elected at the RDS count centre
Fianna Fail candidate Barry Andrews was elected at the RDS count centre (Gareth Chaney/PA)

Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty, Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews, Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan and Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain all confirmed their places on the continent.

The count saw the elimination of Mr Cuffe and independent incumbent Clare Daly.

While the European picture is incomplete, Fianna Fail emerged as the largest party in local government after all seats in Ireland’s local election were filled.

The party won out in the battle for the remaining seats, putting them on a total of 248 seats compared with Fine Gael’s 245.

In the local elections, both main Government parties attracted around 23% of first preference votes, representing a slight drop on their 2019 result.

Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan was elected in Dublin
Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan was elected in Dublin (Gareth Chaney/PA)

Sinn Fein has 102 councillors, an increase on 81 council seats won in 2019, but party leader Mary Lou McDonald has admitted the result fell below their expectations.

The popular vote of 12% is a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the main opposition party which emerged from the 2020 general election on 24.5%.

Meanwhile, the Labour party is down one to 56 councillors, the Green Party’s support fell to 26 council seats while the Social Democrats’ share rose to 35.

The number of Independent councillors has also increased.

The results have fuelled speculation that the Government may look to call a general election earlier than the current projected timeline of spring 2025.

Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Simon Harris with Regina Doherty
Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Simon Harris with Regina Doherty (Gareth Chaney/PA)

However, the leaders of all three coalition parties, Taoiseach Simon Harris, Mr Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, have all insisted they remain committed to the government going full term.

For her part, Sinn Fein leader Ms McDonald, who is facing questions over her stewardship of the party, has struck a defiant tone, urging Mr Harris to “bring it on” and call an early election.

With Mr O Riordain a sitting TD, and other TDs in contention for the remaining European seats, there will be a need for at least one by-election in the coming six months.

That has added to speculation that the Government may seek an earlier general election, rather than fighting several potential by-elections only months before the Dail is dissolved.

Elsewhere, in a landmark poll in Limerick for Ireland’s first directly elected mayor, independent candidate John Moran secured victory late on Tuesday afternoon.