'Ming' Flanagan destined for Europe after topping the poll
INDEPENDENT TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is heading to Europe after a spectacular poll-topping performance in Ireland Midlands-North-West.
But Fine Gael's Brian Hayes and Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy are in danger of not winning seats, after not performing as strongly as had been expected.
Fianna Fail MEP Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher and independent MEP Marian Harkin are locked in a battle to retain their seats in Ireland MNW – as is Independent MEP Nessa Childers in Dublin.
But her former Labour Party MEP colleagues Emer Costello in Dublin and Phil Prendergast in Ireland South will lose their seats.
Fine Gael is still in line to achieve its target of winning four seats in Europe, through strong vote management.
The party's strategy in Ireland South of running three candidates has paid dividends in the end. Fine Gael is poised to win two seats from just 28 per cent of the votes, saving Taoiseach Enda Kenny's European campaign.
The dramatic rise in support for Independents throws the European election results wide open, leaving four seats too close to call:
* Fine Gael will certainly win three seats – possibly four.
* Sinn Fein will definitely win two seats – probably three.
* Fianna Fail is guaranteed to win one seat, possibly two, maybe three.
* Independents will win two seats and are in the hunt for another two.
* The Green Party is chasing one seat.
* The Labour Party won't win any seats.
Mr Flanagan's poll-topping election in Ireland MNW will result in a by-election being required in Roscommon-South Leitrim.
The Independent TD is poised to get 20 per cent of the poll and will possibly be elected on the first count.
Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness will take the second seat on 16 per cent.
But there's going to be a scramble for the last seat with Mr Carthy of Sinn Fein, Ms Harkin, the Independent MEP, and Fianna Fail's duo of Mr Gallagher and Thomas Byrne.
None of these four candidates can be regarded as safe.
Fianna Fail will need to transfer strongly between each of its candidates to ensure it holds its seat.
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Mr Carthy is on 13per cent, Ms Harkin on 11 per cent, Mr Gallagher on 11 per cent and Mr Byrne on 10 per cent. Fine Gael's Jim Higgins on 7 per cent, Labour's Lorraine Higgins on 4 per cent and independent Ronan Mullen on 4 per cent are all out of the running.
However, their transfers will be vital to the outcome.
In Dublin, Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan will top the poll on 24 per cent, with a chasing pack of Mr Hayes of Fine Gael, the Green Party's Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick and Ms Childers, the Independent MEP, for the last two seats.
The outcome is likely to come down to two battles between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for one seat and the Green Party and independents for the second.
Mr Hayes and Mr Ryan are both on 14 per cent, followed by Ms Fitzpatrick on 12 per cent and Ms Childers on 11 per cent. Labour's Emer Costello is well out of the running on 8 per cent, with Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy on 7 per cent and People Before Profit's Brid Smith on 6 per cent. With a quota of 25 per cent, Mr Hayes will be heavily dependent on transfers from Labour to succeed.
In Ireland South, it's more straightforward as Fianna Fail's Brian Crowley will top the poll on 26 per cent of the vote.
Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada on 17 per cent will take the second seat. Fine Gael's Sean Kelly is on 12 per cent, so will be expected to take a third seat.
His party colleagues, Deirdre Clune on 9 per cent and Simon Harris on 7 per cent, lead the chasing pack for the fourth seat.
A bunch of candidates are then coming on five per cent each – Fianna Fail's Kieran Hartley, Independent Diarmuid O'Flynn, the Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan and the Labour Party's Phil Prendergast.
However, it will be extremely difficult for any of these candidates to catch up with the Fine Gael candidates.
The party is poised to win the two seats just because of the weakness of the field.
A Behaviour and Attitudes exit poll commissioned by RTE showed Independent candidates getting the largest share of the votes:
* Independents 27 per cent.
* Fine Gael 22 per cent.
* Fianna Fail 22 per cent.
* Sinn Fein 17 per cent.
* Labour Party 6 per cent.
* Green Party 6 per cent.