Higgins beats Ryan to third European seat in Dublin


Former TD for Dublin West Joe Higgins has won the third seat in the European Parliament elections in Dublin, beating Fianna Fáil candidate and sitting MEP Eoin Ryan and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald.

The Socialist party candidate was elected on the seventh count following the resdistribution of transfers from Ms McDonald.

Mr Higgins joins Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell - who exceeded the quota - and the Labour Party's Proinsias de Rossa who was elected on the sixth count following the elimination of Patricia McKenna.

Mr Higgins, who once spent a month in jail over a campaign against bin taxes, beat Mr Ryan by almost 7,000 votes for the final seat as dawn was breaking today.

He declared elected at 5.15am after 400 counting staff had worked through the night at the RDS count centre. Mr Higgins picked up a massive 22,000 transfers from Ms McDonald to push him past Mr Ryan.

On the seventh count, Mr Higgins received 22,201 votes from Ms McDonald, giving him a final tally of 82,366, while Mr Ryan, the outgoing FF MEP, got 5,426 votes, leaving him trailing the former TD with 76,956.

Mr Mitchell was elected before midnight while Mr de Rossa reached the 101,658 quota shortly before 4am.

Flanked by his elderly mother and dozens of young supporters, Mr Higgins said: “European countries are dominated by right-wing governments which are trotting out the same capitalist policies as here in Ireland and making working people pay for their mistakes.”

He pledged to unite workers in Ireland and across the EU. When asked about how he would cope with the gruelling travel to parliamentary business in Brussels and Strasbourg, he said: “I’ve travelled far and wide in the interests of socialism and so I’m sure we’ll manage.”

He said he would take the average industrial wage of his salary and his legitimate expenses would be published. Mrs Ellen Higgins, who visited her son regularly in Mountjoy Prison in 2003, said: “I’m proud of him. I think he’s very good.”

A native of Co Kerry, Mr Higgins(60), once studied for the priesthood but later became an atheist. His incisive contributions in the Dáil made him a thorn in the side of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern from 1997-2007.

His election campaign was funded on a shoestring budget and his black and white posters claimed he was: ‘The Best Fighter Money Can’t Buy’.

Mr Ryan warmly congratulated Mr Higgins on his 83,366 tally and admitted he was punished by voters for Fianna Fáil’s harsh but necessary economic decisions in the national interest. “It doesn’t matter whether it is Brian Cowen or Enda Kenny or anybody else leading the Government.

“These decisions have to be made in tough economic times and I suffered because of that,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want the Government to make the wrong decisions to save my seat because the decisions they are making are in all of our best interests in the long run.

“I’ve been in his room many times and I have won. That’s politics. If you take the good days you got to be able to take the bad days and today is a bad day.”

When asked about his future plans, he said: “I’m not that old, I’m sure I’ll find something.”

He added: “One thing I want to do now is to try to get my daughter to settle down to do her Leaving Certificate.”

Mr Ryan’s other daughter, Sarah failed to take a local election seat in the south inner city, compounding the disappointment for the family.

But he said: “We’re strong enough. My daughter has bounced back within 24 hours. It’s incredible. She has a great career ahead of her whatever she wants to do.”

Former Green MEP Patricia McKenna finished on 25,636 votes - about 3,500 more than Senator Deirdre de Burca - which means she can recoup some of her election expenses.

In the North West constituency, votes are being checked from 9am after Libertas leader Declan Ganley claimed human error had resulted in some ballots being mislaid. Witnesses claimed they saw a box of ballot papers in the constituency being mistakenly allocated to another candidate.

After polling 70,638 votes in the first count, Mr Ganley, who earlier confidently predicted he would take a seat in Brussels, asked for bundles to be rechecked in front of the tally man.

Outgoing Independent MEPs Marian Harkin topped the poll with nearly 85,000 first preferences, followed by Fianna Fáil’s Pat “The Cope” Gallagher and Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins.

Counts in the East and South constituencies adjourned last night and resumed at 9am today.

In the South constituency, Fianna Fáil’s outgoing MEP Brian Crowley has been re-elected, while former GAA president Seán Kelly is also certain to be elected. Green Party candidate Senator Dan Boyle, who received less than 3 per cent of the vote, said the results made it “a horrendous weekend” for the party.

In East, Mairéad McGuinness of Fine Gael topped the poll and was elected on the first count with 110,300 votes. Labour’s Nessa Childers, on 78,338 votes, will be comfortably elected in second place. Outgoing Fianna Fáil MEP Liam Aylward, with 74,606 votes on the first count, will require transfers from running mate Thomas Byrne, who is on 41,122 votes.

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