'Ming' says he will keep MEP seat as he hits out at 'irrelevant' Casey
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan - who is on course to be re-elected to the European Parliament - has predicted Peter Casey won't take a seat and claimed his rival is now "irrelevant".
It comes as the Midlands-North-West European election count enters its fourth day.
Fine Gael's Maria Walsh remains in a strong position to take a surprise second seat for the party. Her running mate Mairead McGuinness topped the poll and was elected on the first count. Mr Flanagan is likely to get over the line today. His vote stood at 91,747 on the ninth count and he believes his vote will exceed the quota of almost 119,000.
Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy, on 82,921, made gains from transfers as other candidates were eliminated. He is now looking safe to keep his seat.
Ms Walsh had 74,116 votes on the ninth count and Fine Gael is increasingly certain the former Rose of Tralee will be elected. The party's former MEP Jim Higgins said: "We're very confident. I don't think there's any question but that we will take the two [seats]."
Mr Flanagan said that he will "definitely" get elected. He also claimed the Green Party's Saoirse McHugh, who was on 58,642 votes last night, would have taken a seat if she had as much media coverage as Mr Casey.
Ms McHugh was tipped to cause an upset after an exit poll put her support at 14pc. However, that estimate has not panned out and she is now unlikely to win a seat. She made an impact on an RTÉ TV debate where she challenged Mr Casey's views on immigration.
Mr Flanagan claimed the question has to be asked of RTÉ of what the result would be if she had got "equal billing" with Mr Casey. RTÉ insisted its coverage was "fair, objective and impartial".
Mr Casey said he would reserve any response to Mr Flanagan's claim that he was irrelevant until after the count. He was on 61,616 votes last night. Mr Casey said he was "transfer friendly" and was still confident he would be elected.