Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada will not be returning to the European Parliament after the party conceded her seat in the Ireland South constituency to Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party.
Jonathan O’Brien TD, director of elections for Ms Ní Riada, confirmed a full recount would not be sought by the party after the adjudication of 100 disputed votes showed Ms O’Sullivan had gained an additional 47.
Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly was the first person elected in Ireland South and was followed by Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher. Counting will resume on Wednesday to decide the order in which the remaining seats are filled.
Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace is expected to take the third seat when Ms Ní Riada’s 98,379 papers are distributed following her elimination.
This would leave sitting Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune and Ms O’Sullivan battling it out for the fourth and fifth seats. All other candidates have been eliminated.
Sinn Féin sought a recount last week after Ms O’Sullivan, a Senator from Tramore, Co Waterford, overtook Ms Ní Riada by 326 votes in the race to represent the constituency in the European Parliament.
Ms Ní Riada polled 79,072 first preferences to Ms O’Sullivan’s 75,948 but was overtaken by the 18th count due to transfers favouring the Green Party candidate.
The recount had been due to take place at Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork, and it was feared it could take up to 28 days to complete given the 755,987 votes to be examined.
However, returning officer Martin Harvey drafted in extra counting staff and some 130 counters and 20 supervisors quickly got through the 200,000 or so papers allocated to Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Ní Riada, finding just 121 discrepancies.
“There was in the region of 121 discrepancies found today,” Mr O’Brien said. “Unfortunately the overall net figure was plus 47 for Grace...it became very clear we were not closing the gap. So while we’re disappointed for Liadh, we want to congratulate Grace and the Green Party on their success.”
Ms O’Sullivan welcomed the news that Sinn Féin had abandoned the potential recount and said she felt sympathy for Ms Ní Riada, who she said had represented Ireland well in the European Parliament following her election in 2014.
“It’s ended very well but I am quite sad in a way for Liadh Ní Riada - it must be very difficult for her this evening...I had wished that she would be going to Europe along with myself, but that’s not going to happen now,” she said.
Ms Ní Riada told Nuacht TG4 that while she was disappointed not to have retained her seat, she was particularly disappointed for her staff who had worked hard for her and for the people of Gaeltacht areas who would now be left without a voice in the European Parliament.
Twelve counties spanning from Wexford to Kerry make up the European election constituency of Ireland South, which has been allocated an additional seat in this election as a consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The order in which the seats are filled is important as the final seat in the constituency only comes into play once, or if, Brexit happens.
Ms O’Sullivan said she was hopeful transfers would fall her way and help her avoid the “uncertainty” of ending up in the fifth seat.
“Mick Wallace still has to be elected but I would hope to do well from Liadh Ní Riada’s votes when they are distributed and Deirdre Clune is still in fourth position, which is the seat I would like to take as the fifth seat is really a seat of uncertainty given it only becomes active when the UK leaves the EU.”