Shropshire Star

Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly is first to be elected in Ireland’s European elections

Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher and Independent TD Michael McNamara are in second and third place.

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Sean Kelly celebrates with friends, family and supporters after becoming the first MEP to be elected in Ireland’s European elections at Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork, Ireland, during the count for the European elections

Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly has become the first MEP to be elected in Ireland’s European elections.

Mr Kelly won 122,777 votes in the Ireland South constituency, surpassing the quota of 114,761.

“This very moment has to be the high point, because you work so hard,” the Kerry man said.

“You’re never sure how it’s going to go because every day you go out and meet people who are positive, but you also meet very negative, some very nasty people and you say to yourself ‘Oh my god, will I get any votes?’

MEP Sean Kelly (centre) kisses his one-year-old granddaughter Hannah-Rose Kelly
MEP Sean Kelly (centre) kisses his one-year-old granddaughter Hannah-Rose Kelly (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“And then you come here and you get a huge vote, elected on the first count, it makes everything worthwhile, so this is the highlight, it has to be for everybody.”

Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher came in second with 91,074 votes, and Independent TD Michael McNamara had 56,339 votes.

In a battle for the fourth and fifth seats are Fianna Fail candidate and 1994 Eurovision host Cynthia Ni Mhurchu on 55,209; outgoing MEP and ex-Co Wexford TD Mick Wallace on 52,803; Sinn Fein TD Kathleen Funchion on 50,580; and the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan on 47,661.

Mr Kelly’s running mate John Mullins is on 33,281 votes; the Social Democrats’ Susan Doyle got 20,229; Labour’s Niamh Hourigan is on 21,272 and Aontu’s Patrick Murphy is on 14,124.

The total electorate for the area is 1.3 million, and there were 713,323 ballots, with 688,564 valid.

Ms Funchion said earlier that she was “very hopeful” she would be elected and that transfers would be “a key part” of how the count plays out.

Her running mate Paul Gavan is on 22,392 first preference votes.

The EU election ballot papers at Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork went through a lengthy “sub-sort” before the actual count began.

The announcement of the first count result had been expected by lunchtime on Monday, but was announced after 9.30pm.

European and local elections
Sean Kelly (centre), alongside his wife Juliette Kelly (left) and her sister Linda O’Donoghue (right), observe as count staff sort ballots at Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork during the count for the European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The surplus of Mr Kelly is to be distributed when the count resumes at 9am on Tuesday, but Mr Kelleher is not expected to reach the quota until that evening, after other candidates are eliminated.

Several rounds of further counting and transfers – described repeatedly as erratic and unpredictable – will be needed before the final two seats for the 10-county constituency become clear.

Ms O’Sullivan said on Sunday the prospect of holding on to her seat “feels like it’s slipping away” but appeared to come back into contention on Monday and is considered very “transfer-friendly”.

Mr Kelly’s running mate, John Mullins, said that there was an opportunity for the Government to get a third seat in Ireland South.

Ms Funchion said: “I have been in several elections and have had really good days and really bad days in count centres.

“So I’m always very, very cautious when it comes to it. We have to see the first count and unusually there has been no tally because it’s a European election.

“I would be hopeful, very hopeful. But I do think, as we’ve seen throughout so many of our local councils over the weekend, transfers are a key part of it, and you could think you’re doing great and all of a sudden there’s a surplus or section of transfers that you didn’t foresee.

“I think one thing that I have found very interesting just from my own engagement at local level with tallies is transfers, in general, there’s no pattern now I will say.

European and local elections
Mick Wallace arrives at Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork during the count for the European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We have had a really good transfer rate for Sinn Fein and that has gotten some of our people over the line locally. I would expect that we’ll have a really good transfer between myself and Paul. But it’s still early days in terms of the seat. Hopefully the first count will be soon and we’ll have a little bit of a clearer picture.”

Independents4Change’s Mr Wallace said “life is too short to be worrying” when asked how he is feeling about his prospects of being re-elected.

Asked if he is performing better or worse than in the last election, he said: “Ah no, I did much better the last time.

“I got over 81,000 first preferences, I’ll only get about 50,000 this time. But the fact that Sean and Billy and Michael McNamara got such big scores, it means the rest of us are on lower numbers.

“We’re competing with each other, we’re not competing with the two lads who are already in. We’re really just concerned about whether we can stay ahead of the people that are close to us.”

With most of the 949 council seats filled, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have held steady at 23% of first preference votes, with main opposition party Sinn Fein behind on just 11%.

European and local elections
Billy Kelleher was at Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork for the count for the European elections (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Of Ireland’s 14 MEPs, Fianna Fail is expected to increase its number of MEPs from two to three.

Speaking at the count centre at Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork on Monday, Mr Kelleher said that Micheal Martin’s leadership, the strength of the organisation and the “critical importance” of centrist politics were behind the party’s performance.

He said that Irish voters had rejected “populist, anti-migrant groupings” and moved back to the centre.

There had been concern that a wave of rhetoric around immigration and climate change, seen across the EU, would be repeated in Ireland’s local and European elections on June 7.

But the coalition government parties – Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party – have performed better than expected based on early results.

“The public looked at others and rejected them resoundingly, both in terms of the very populist anti-migrant groupings on the right, but equally Sinn Fein as well in terms of their simplistic views to complex problems,” Mr Kelleher said.

“I think it was a very interesting election because there was a debate around the whole issue of the extremes on left and right and where the centre would reside in modern Irish politics.

“I think that was answered emphatically yesterday both in the local elections and also the European elections, where people looked at the alternatives and wanted to go back to the centre.”

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