Midlands-North West: seat hangs in balance as votes rechecked

Supporters of Marian Harkin and Pat the Cope Gallagher scrutinse bundles

Marian Harkin MEP at the count centre for the European elections in the Castlebar. Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan

Marian Harkin MEP at the count centre for the European elections in the Castlebar. Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan

 

One of the last of 751 seats in the new European Parliament still hung in the balance tonight, as over 660,000 votes in the Midlands-North West constituency were rechecked by counting staff.

Soaring temperatures outside were matched by rising temperatures within the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar, Mayo , as supporters of outgoing MEPs Marian Harkin (Ind) and Pat the Cope Gallagher (FF) scrutinised the final bundles of first preference votes.

By close to 9pm, there appeared to be little material change to the overall outcome, though either candidate could still request a full recount.

For Irish dancing tutor Noreen Redmond, the longest and largest recheck of its type in these elections couldn’t take place quickly enough.

Some 700 young dancers are due to take to the stage in the count venue this weekend for the Dot Redmond Memorial Feis, founded by and named after Noreen’s mother half a century ago. “I’m trying to keep calm,”she said.

Also maintaining calm were the two candidates, separated by just 275 votes for the last seat on the eighth count on Tuesday night, when the recheck was offered by returning officer Fintan Murphy.

Shortly after noon yesterday, bundles of first preference votes for each candidate were methodically inspected, with any doubtful papers then photocopied and further scrutinised.

However, Ms Harkin remained quietly confident tonight, while her supporters pointed out that the margin in her favour was actually 400 votes due to transfers from the surplus of 271 votes acquired by Luke “Ming” Flanagan (Ind).

Mr Flanagan, the first MEP in the sprawling 15-county constituency to be elected, left Louis Copeland suit at home and turned up with a team of six to assist Harkin’s scrutineers.

“It would make a big difference to us to have two Independents representing this constituency,” his assistant Pat Fitzpatrick pointed out.

Former junior Fianna Fáil junior minister Dara Calleary, Galway East TD Noel Treacy and an army of party colleagues arrived in force shortly before 8pm when the counting staff began examining bundles of first preferences for Marian Harkin.

“When one analyses this, the margin is less than 0.03 per cent, which is almost similar to two votes in a local election...but I am a realist, and whatever the outcome will be, I will accept that,” Mr Gallagher, who has fought 14 elections in his political career, said.

He was hopeful that a number of non-transferables from his running mate, Thomas Byrne, could work in his favour.

Asked about the possibility of a recount, Mr Gallagher said: “I’ll have discussions with those advising me,”, adding that a decision would be taken late tomorow night or early on Friday morning by his team if the recheck finishes tomorrow

Three of the four seats in the 15-county constituency of over 1.2 million people were filled on Monday and Tuesday by Mr Flanagan, who topped the poll, sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness (FG) and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.