Sunday 18 August 2019

Elections 2019: Full recount and recheck ordered in Ireland South

Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)
Liadh Ni Riada (Niall Carson/PA)

Ralph Riegel

A FULL recheck and recount was ordered in Ireland South after outgoing Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada was poised to lose her European Parliament seat to Green Party Senator Grace O'Sullivan by a mere 327 votes on the eighteenth count.

Senator O'Sullivan snatched the fifth and final European Parliament seat with a vote of 98,706 after a marathon four day count - a mere 327 votes ahead of her rival, Ms Ni Riada, who garnered 98,379.

Returning Officer Martin Harvey said a recheck and recount was formally requested by Ms Ni Riada - and he had agreed to her request.

The recheck will commence at 9am on Thursday - with a full recount, if launched, likely to take two or three days to complete.

Counting at the Ireland South European elections in Co Cork will continue for another day (Michelle Devane/PA)
Counting at the Ireland South European elections in Co Cork will continue for another day (Michelle Devane/PA)

The mere 327 vote margin separated the two candidates out of more than 755,000 votes cast in the sprawling 12 county constituency.

Sinn Fein has been granted a full recheck and recount, however there is still the possibility that if the party are happy with the check and inspection of papers that the full recount will be called off.

As it stands, the full recount is expected to commence from Tuesday morning.

Fine Gael MEP and former GAA President Sean Kelly topped the poll and was elected on the ninth count.

Former Fianna Fáil Minister Billy Kelleher was elected on the seventeenth count after exceeding the quota while Wexford Independent TD Mick Wallace (112,441) and outgoing Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune (111,012) face being elected without reaching the 119,866 quota.

However, after the eighteenth count, which was the distribution of Mr Kelleher's 11,786 vote surplus, just 327 votes separated Senator O'Sullivan and Ms Ni Riada, in fifth and six places respectively.

Senator O'Sullivan had been 522 votes ahead of Ms Ni Riada after the seventeenth count.

The recheck will involve an examination of all vote bundles to determine if there are any anomalies.

However, a recount will involve a recounting of all ballots from next Tuesday, a process which could take three to four days.

In a dramatic night, Fine Gael saw Deirdre Clune deliver another miraculous performance on transfers - turning an 18,000 deficit to Senator O'Sullivan and Ms Ni Riada around in the space of just two counts.

By the seventeenth count, Ms Clune had a lead of just under 1,900 votes over her nearest rival.

By the eighteenth count she had stretched her lead to 2,300.

That earlier count, which was the distribution of Fianna Fáil Councillor Malcolm Byrne's 80,000 votes, saw Mr Kelleher elected with a massive transfer of 38,767.

Ms Clune critically outperformed her two rivals, having trailed both by almost 18,000 votes before the sixteenth count.

In 2014, she delivered another transfer miracle by overtaking her running mate, Health Minister Simon Harris, on the tenth count to be elected an MEP.

The order of the final three seats in Ireland South was determined by the distribution of Mr Kelleher's 11,000 vote surplus.

He exceeded the quota of 119,866 by 11,786.

"I'm delighted to be elected and overall I think it has been a very strong European Parliament and Local Government election campaign for Fianna Fáil," Mr Kelleher said.

Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin said he was "very pleased" with the strong performance of both Mr Kelleher and Councillor Byrne.

However, it was Mick Wallace who proved the surprise package of the Ireland South campaign by coming third in first preferences - and then proving so transfer friendly he surged past Mr Kelleher before the seventeenth count.

He is poised to clinch the third seat in Ireland South with over 109,000 votes.

He is almost 12,000 votes ahead of Ms Clune in fourth place with 97,935.

Senator O'Sullivan is on 96,095 and Ms Ni Riada is on 95,573 - with Mr Kelleher's surplus now set to decide who takes the final two seats.

Mr Wallace attended the Nemo Rangers GAA count centre with Clare Daly TD who was elected an MEP in Dublin.

He said he was "thrilled" by his performance - and vowed to prove as much a thorn in the side of the Government and vested interests in Brussels as he had in the Dail.

However, while it was apparent at the outset that Mick Wallace and Billy Kelleher would join Sean Kelly in Brussels, the focus at the count centre over the past two days was on the tense battle between Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and the Green Party for the final two seats.

Ms Clune appeared to be out of the running until a remarkable 20,183 vote transfer from Labour's Sheila Nunan and Fine Gael's Minister Andrew Doyle put her neck-and-neck with Senator O'Sullivan and Ms Ni Riada.

Just 3,400 votes separated all three women at the sixteenth count - with only 1,300 votes between the Sinn Fein and Green Party candidates.

Ms Clune secured much stronger transfers from Councillor Byrne than anticipated.

Her strong performance was celebrated at the count centre by Tanaiste Simon Coveney who said it was "a very impressive performance in Ireland South for the party."

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