Childers and Aylward join poll-topper McGuinness


EUROPEAN ELECTIONS: EASTLABOUR CANDIDATE Nessa Childers and Fianna Fáil’s outgoing MEP Liam Aylward were yesterday elected on the seventh count in the Ireland East constituency, joining Fine Gael poll-topper Mairéad McGuinness.

Fine Gael Senator John Paul Phelan, who came in fourth was by yesterday evening philosophical about the failure to keep the party’s second seat. Twelve weeks ago he was unknown nationally.

But he had a significant vote overall, particularly in his home base of Kilkenny.

“Obviously in terms of future elections the Kilkenny result is important for me and I want to really thank people. The final tally (76,960) is virtually the fill of Croke Park,” he said.

Fine Gael polled virtually exactly the same as in 2004 with 40.12 per cent of the vote, and party leader Enda Kenny, who arrived after the end of the count, said that while he was disappointed not to have kept the second seat, “Fine Gael have outpolled Fianna Fáil for the first time in European elections”.

Paying tribute to the candidate and director of elections Billy Timmins TD, he commended Mr Phelan’s performance “in increasing the vote for Fine Gael and in doing a remarkable transition in the past 10 days in getting it back up to 15 per cent when a poll reported them to be only at 7 per cent”.

The outcome of the election had been predicted by Sunday afternoon and the atmosphere was slightly muted by the time the final result was completed.

Labour’s Nessa Childers was expected to take the seat previously held by Fine Gael’s Avril Doyle. The Green Party did not field a candidate this time around and its vote was swept up by Labour.

The happy candidate stood with her equally-pleased director of elections, Liz McManus TD, and posed for photographs with party whip and Kildare North TD Emmet Stagg and party deputy leader Joan Burton.

Ms Childers, a former Green Party councillor, said: “There is a green vote out there. The environment is important and it is an issue that the Labour Party is very enthusiastic about as well. I am a Labour Party candidate and the environment is part of our brief.”

The candidate, a daughter of the late president Erskine Childers, said agriculture “is a very important issue, and the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy and how we deal with that and the strategic planning needed to go into it”.

A calm but highly relieved Liam Aylward was pleased it was all over. Mr Aylward, a TD from 1977 until 2007, was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004. He told reporters it was the “most difficult election” of the 15 elections he has run in.

He paid particular tribute to fellow party candidate Thomas Byrne, who he said “played a major role in winning the seat for me”. The Kilkenny-based MEP whose vote went up from 15 per cent to 17 per cent “against the wind” also paid tribute to party colleague Eoin Ryan who lost his Dublin seat. He said he was a “good friend and I want to commiserate with him. I’ll miss him greatly ”.

In her acceptance speech, Mairéad McGuinness pledged to continue her “hard work” and to be “available as always” to constituents.

Ms McGuinness and her defeated party colleague were photographed chatting to each other, perhaps drawing a line under any further speculation about reported rows over territory division within the constituency.