Midlands North-West: Former Rose Maria Walsh wins surprise European Parliament seat for Fine Gael
- Maris Walsh vows to 'hit the ground running' in Brussels
- Fine Gael veteran Mairead McGuinness, Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy also elected
- Controversial ex-presidential candidate Peter Casey loses out
FORMER Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has caused an upset and won a surprise seat in the European Parliament.
Ms Walsh will join Mairead McGuinness in Brussels taking a second seat for Fine Gael in Midlands-North-West.
Political newcomer Ms Walsh vowed to "hit the ground running" in Brussels and said she is excited that she will be sitting in the European Parliament representing the West and North-West.
She conceded her victory wasn't expected by some but said: "I put my name forward and I very much roped in family. I had a strong team and the party rowed in behind us from the start."
She said they "worked ferociously" for the victory. She won 107,198 votes.
Ms Walsh (31), was the first member of the LGBT community to be crowned Rose of Tralee.
She was joined by her parents Noreen and Vincent at the count.
Independent MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan was also returned to the European Parliament in the thirteenth count with a vote of 121,824.
The quota of 118,986.
Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy also took the final seat with 98,732 votes.
The result will come as a relief to party leader Mary Lou McDonald who had a nightmare first local and European Elections as leader.
Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness topped the poll in the first count on Monday with a massive first preference vote of 134,630.
Ms Walsh began her victory speech saying: “Wow, MEP Walsh, thank you very, very much.”
She said her campaign team knew they had a job to do, to spread a message about opportunity that can happen in rural Ireland where she grew up and is "so bloody passionate about".
Ms Walsh added: "I am unbelievably honoured to be a girl from Shrule and the fact that we have an MEP".
Mr Flanagan said he will be "fighting like a dog" for rural Ireland over the next five years.
Mr Carthy said he had a "very difficult and tough fight" and Sinn Féin is "devastated" that outgoing Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan lost her seat.
He added that Liadh Ni Riadh is in a battle for her political life in Ireland South.
He said Sinn Féin “will see better days”.
Mr Carthy also noted the "phenomenal vote" secured by Ms McGuinness who has been vocal in the Brexit process and the debate over the backstop to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
He said he believes that in part "her huge vote was an endorsement of the backstop and the political position that has been taken with the support of all political voices from Ireland in relation to the Brexit scenario."
He said he hopes the government: "will see the huge vote that she got as a signal from the electorate that they expect us to continue to work together in Ireland's interests in the face of the challenge that Brexit presents."
Fianna Fáil failed to win a seat in the constituency for the second European Election in a row. Mr Smith's running mate, Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte was eliminated in the tenth count late last night.
Mr Smith ended up with 68,677 votes.
The party will be conducting a post mortem on what went so badly wrong in the campaign.
Mr Casey's vote eventually came in at 78,362.
Last night he said he's "almost certainly" going to run for the Dáil in Donegal.
The Green Party's Saoirse McHugh, a first time candidate who impressed with her take down of Mr Casey in a TV debate, ended up with a vote 61,957 being eliminated in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
She is now seen as a rising star in the party, but has not made a decision on whether or not she will seek a Dáil seat in the future.