Recheck in Midlands-North West as Harkin leads by 275 votes

Independent has narrow lead over Pat The Cope with recheck on Wednesday morning

Maireád McGuinness is congratulated by supporters after she took the second seat in the European Parliament for Midlands North-West. Photograph: Michael Donnelly

Maireád McGuinness is congratulated by supporters after she took the second seat in the European Parliament for Midlands North-West. Photograph: Michael Donnelly

 

A full recheck of the count in the European Parliament election for Midlands North West has been announced after a dramatic eighth count after which only 275 votes separated outgoing MEPs Marian Harkin and Pat The Cope Gallagher in the battle for the last seat.

Mr Gallagher of Fianna Fáil was trailing the Independent candidate Ms Harkin by some 2,586 votes going into the eighth count where the 5,756 surplus of newly-elected Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy was distributed.

In a dramatic finale to this marathon count, Mr Gallagher attracted 3,330 transfers, bringing his total to 106,245. However, with 1,109 transfers from Mr Carthy’s surplus, Ms Harkin’s total came to 106,520, some 275 votes ahead of Mr Gallagher. There was a 271 surplus from Luke Ming Flanagan’s election in the second count but that did not come into play because it was less – by four votes – than the number of votes separating the two candidates.

It means that while a total of 663,703 votes were cast, the outcome was decided ultimately by a handful of votes. But before announcing the final result the returning officer consulted with both candidates and agreed that a full recheck of the poll would commence on Wednesday morning at 10am. Both sides are expected to have legal representation present at the count centre throughout the process and it is expected that a full recount may be called.

That could mean it could take at least until the weekend before the fourth and final seat in this vast constituency is declared. Some 10 minutes before the announcement, Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary told the media that a full recheck would commence. Fianna Fáil had indicated, since it was known the outcome would be very close, that it would seek some form of audit of the vote.

Mr Carthy was elected shortly after 9pm last night on the third day of counting in this vast constituency, which encompasses 15 counties. He received a transfer of some 7,911 votes from Mr Byrne following his elimination, bringing him over the quota of 129,290 with a surplus of 5,756.

The big shift in the count came with a massive transfer of 34,457 votes from Mr Byrne to Mr Gallagher, bringing his total to 102,915. That put him 2,586 votes behind Ms Harkin, who received a transfer of 5,685. It is expected that a majority of Mr Carthy’s surplus (which is comprised of transfers from Mr Byrne) will go to Mr Gallagher but he will need some 80 per cent if he is to overtake Ms Harkin.

Earlier yesterday afternoon, Fine Gael’s Maireád McGuinness was elected on the fifth count for her third term in the European Parliament. She benefited from a massive transfer from her Fine Gael colleague, outgoing MEP Jim Higgins, who conceded victory early yesterday.

The Independent TD Luke Flanagan was elected on Monday after topping the poll and almost reaching the quota of 129,290 on the first count.

A large crowd of Sinn Féin members and supporters arrived in the hall to congratulate Mr Carthy upon his election. They included Donegal TDs Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Pearse Doherty.

In media interviews yesterday, Ms McGuinness said she believed that the situation in the European Parliament was complex at the moment but it needed strong representation. She said that she, along with Fine Gael colleagues, believed that citizens had responsibilities, as well as rights. “There will be a difficult political environment in the European Parliament. Difficult politics requires strong people to make hard choices.”