Ireland South election count finishes, Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan beats FG's Deirdre Clune to fourth seat
Five candidates declared elected following marathon eight-day count
GREEN Party Senator Grace O'Sullivan and Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace celebrated being elected to the European Parliament for Ireland South as Fine Gael hailed "a transfer miracle" which delivered the party two Brussels seats.
Former Fianna Fáil Minister and Cork TD Billy Kelleher was also elected to the European Parliament as outgoing Fine Gael MEPs Sean Kelly and Deirdre Clune defied the polls and the pundits by both clinching re-election.
All five were declared elected by Returning Officer Martin Harvey following a marathon eight day count.
Former GAA President Sean Kelly topped the poll and hailed his Ireland South performance as "the greatest of my career."
Mr Kelleher took the second seat, being elected after surging past the quota thanks to vote transfers on the seventeenth count.
However, Ms Clune - who again delivered an astonishing electoral recovery thanks to strong transfers - was pushed into the fifth and final seat by Sen O'Sullivan thanks to nineteenth and twentieth count transfers.
Sen O'Sullivan finished on 119,701 votes compared to Ms Clune's 112,162 - a final lead of 7,539.
Ms Clune will now take the so-called 'zombie' seat which will only be filled when Brexit is enacted and the UK formally leaves the EU.
The Green Party celebrated electing their first ever MEP in Ireland South after Sen O'Sullivan had pipped Sinn Féin's outgoing MEP Liadh Ní Riada to elimination by a meagre 358 votes.
Sen O'Sullivan's lead had increased from 326 to 358 following a recount called by Ms Ní Riada.
Sinn Féin withdrew their recount request just one day into the recounting of ballots after no major vote anomalies were found.
The subsequent elimination of Ms Ní Riada and the distribution of her 98,248 votes elected Mr Wallace to the third seat.
His 27,001 vote surplus, when then distributed, guaranteed the Green Party the fourth MEP berth in Ireland South which Sen O'Sullivan will now take up alongside Mr Kelly, Mr Kelleher and Mr Wallace early next month. Sen O'Sullivan said it was "an incredible day."
"This is a wonderful day for me, for my team and for the Green Party," she said. Sen O'Sullivan almost trebled her vote since the 2014 European Parliament election.
Mr Wallace - who was unable to attend the Nemo Rangers GAA complex after missing a flight from the UK - paid tribute to the incredible support he received across Munster and Leinster.
"I think people across the political spectrum respect the fact that I call a spade a spade and I often say things that people don't like to hear. I call it as I see it. I think I have garnered respect for that from the people. In Brussels I guarantee you I will remain a thorn in the side of the Government here. I promise you that," he said.
Ms Clune will now have to wait until potentially October or November to take up her MEP seat, depending on when the UK formally leaves the EU.
The Fine Gael MEP refused to be downbeat despite being forced out of fourth place.
"As far as I am concerned, I was elected as an MEP in Ireland South and that is the important thing for me, for my team and for the party," she said.
Ms Clune delivered another miraculous performance on transfers - turning an 18,000 deficit to Senator O'Sullivan and Ms Ní 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 votes.
However, Sen O'Sullivan then swamped that lead and clinched fourth place with strong transfers from both Sinn Féin and Mr Wallace.
In 2014, Ms Clune delivered another transfer miracle by overtaking her running mate, Health Minister Simon Harris, on the tenth count to be elected an MEP.