Grace O’Sullivan pips Deirdre Clune to fourth Ireland South seat

Fine Gael politician will not return to European Parliament unless UK leaves union

Independents 4 Change Mick Wallace talks to count staff at the Ireland South count centre. File photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire

Independents 4 Change Mick Wallace talks to count staff at the Ireland South count centre. File photograph: Michelle Devane/PA Wire

 

Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party has taken the fourth European Parliament seat in the Ireland South constituency, leaving Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune in the fifth spot which only becomes active when the UK leaves the EU.

Independents4Change candidate Mick Wallace earlier took the third seat and the count has now come to an end, almost two weeks after voters went to the polls. Seán Kelly of Fine Gael and Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fáil were the first two MEPs elected in the constituency.

Mr Wallace was not present to hear returning officer Martin Harvey announce his election at the end of the 19th count at around 2.15pm. He missed a connecting flight from Gatwick to Cork while returning from a break in Italy.

There were scenes of delight some two hours later when the Wexford TD’s surplus of 19,674 votes was distributed, giving Ms O’Sullivan, a Senator from Tramore, Co Waterford, the fourth seat ahead of Ms Clune, a sitting MEP.

Ms Clune now finds herself in the same situation as Barry Andrews of Fianna Fáil, who took the final seat in the Dublin constituency. Ireland was allocated two extra MEP berths as a consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but the Brexit process has been repeatedly delayed.

It looked ominous for Ms Clune after the 19th count when the 98,248 votes of Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada, who lost her seat, were distributed.

The Green Party candidate picked up 15,681 transfers to bring her 114,287 while Ms Clune picked up 9,038, leaving her on 110,085.

Ms Ní Riada also transferred some 27,000 votes to Mr Wallace to bring him to 139,529, some 20,000 over the quota. When his surplus was distributed, Ms O’Sullivan increased her lead over Ms Clune.

‘Humbled’

Speaking afterwards, Ms O’Sullivan said she was “hugely humbled and privileged” to be chosen to represent the people of Ireland South. She paid tribute to all the candidates who put themselves forward as well as the team that worked on her campaign since Christmas. She said she would begin working immediately in Europe to promote and pursue a Green agenda.

“I am going to Europe, I am going to work very hard on climate action, the whole issue of biodiversity and we will work on human rights issues and social issues and I give my commitment, I will not waste one moment and will work as hard as I can for Ireland South,” she said.

“I feel a huge relief today, I’m absolutely over the moon but I’m jaded because it’s been a long journey...It is really important to me that I communicate well within the constituency. I don’t want to be one of these MEPs that people say in five years’ time, ‘she went to Europe and we never saw her again’. That won’t be me.”

Ms Clune said that it was a tremendous honour to be selected by the people of Ireland South to be one of their MEPs for a third successive term and she was very grateful to everyone who voted for her as well as the team that worked tirelessly to get her re-elected.

“Until Brexit happens, I will be keeping a very active role but until such time as it happens, I won’t be an MEP. Like everyone else, I don’t want Brexit to happen at all — you have to look at the bigger picture — but unfortunately I just think it’s going to happen...”