Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan calls for change of direction on Europe

Newly elected MEP says it may be time to reconsider membership of European Union

Counting of European election votes was continuing last night

in the Midlands North West constituency where Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim Luke “Ming” Flanagan topped the poll and was elected on the second count.

Sinn Féin candidate Matt Carthy and outgoing MEPs Maireád McGuinness (FG), Pat the Cope Gallagher (FF) and Marian Harkin (Ind) were still in contention for the three remaining seats, along with Fianna Fáil's "M50 commuter belt" candidate Thomas Byrne.

Some 33,744 votes accrued by Labour candidate Lorraine Higgins were being distributed following her elimination on the second count.

As he was hoisted on supporters’ shoulders in the Castlebar count centre, Mr Flanagan roared “we have been quiet for too long, we have been lied to for too long”.

“Now the Government has been told definitively that the people of Ireland are sick and tired of being told what to do by Europe,” he said. “If Europe doesn’t like what the Irish people think, then I think we need to go one step further and reconsider our membership of this very, very bad union.

Compassionate "One of the benefits of electing me to Europe is that you will get a compassionate Euroscepticism," Mr Flanagan said, making it clear that he would have "no truck" with the UK Independence Party.

“Nineteen out of the 20 people in my house, and my wife’s house, went to work in London and they were welcomed. If Nigel Farage had his way they wouldn’t be welcome.

“And I’ll tell you one thing for sure, I’ll have no truck with that man,” he said, referring to the Ukip leader.

“We need people to be sceptical about Europe who care about the people of Europe.

“My campaign was not about nationalism, it was about localism. It was about the people of Spain, Italy, Greece and Ireland.”

He has not yet decided what European parliamentary grouping he will join as this depends on the outcome of the elections across the community.

Fine Gael's Jim Higgins, a former government chief whip and MEP, conceded defeat before lunchtime, and called for an "urgent Cabinet reshuffle" and an "urgent reappraisal" of his party's strategy in the light of the local and European election results.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times