European election: Marathon six-day count ends in Castlebar as final Midlands-North-West seats are filled

Maria Walsh, Nina Carberry and Ciaran Mullooly elected following distribution of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s surplus

Nina Carberry and Maria Walsh celebrate after being elected as MEPs for the Midlands-North-West constituency in the European elections. Photograph: Conor McKeown/PA Wire

The final seats in the Midlands-North-West constituency were filled in the early hours of Friday morning, concluding a marathon, six-day European election count in Castlebar.

On the 21st count, Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh, a sitting MEP, her running mate Nina Carberry and Ciaran Mullooly of Independent Ireland were all deemed elected without reaching the quota of 113,325 votes following the distribution of poll-topper Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s surplus.

Both Mr Flanagan – now heading to Brussels for his third term – and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen were elected earlier having both passed the quota, on the 19th and 20th counts respectively.

Speaking to reporters after his election, Mr Flanagan – elected with a total of 118,754 votes – said he was “honoured” to be returning to the European Parliament, and thanked voters for “having faith” in him.


He said he was ready to get back to work in Brussels, to secure his place on the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, and to “get real justice” for people affected by defective concrete blocks.

He encouraged fellow Irish MEPs not to back European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for another term as leader of the parliament due to her support of Israel’s war on Gaza.

Speaking in Castlebar on Thursday evening, Taoiseach Simon Harris dismissed claims that Fine Gael’s strategy for winning seats in Midlands-North-West was to run so-called celebrity candidates. Both Fine Gael’s candidates in the constituency enjoyed a level of recognition before entering politics: Ms Carberry is a former jockey, while Ms Walsh is a former Rose of Tralee winner.

Asked if celebrity status was key to getting elected in Europe, Mr Harris said: “Nina Carberry is not a celebrity, she’s a champion.”

He said Fine Gael’s electoral strategy in Midlands-North-West was “to get out and reach as many people right across his vast constituency, the largest constituency in Ireland, and talk to people”.

Ms Carberry told reporters that she’d done her “fair share” when asked about her lack of media appearances during the campaign, stating that she’d taken part in several hustings and an RTÉ Six One news debate.

In a speech delivered after she was deemed elected, Ms Carberry said she was looking forward to working in Europe. “I feel that I have a lot to give, I know a lot of people don’t think I do, but I have a lot to give.”

Meanwhile, Mr Cowen said he was ready to honour his commitments to the public following his election, and “to ensure that this country gets the sort of representation that it deserves in Europe”.

Standing beside Mr Cowen, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he disagreed that Fianna Fáil’s decision to run three candidates in the constituency was flawed. “If you look at the other parties and so on, it’s pretty clear that even if we had two candidates that may not have broken down,” he said.

Mr Mullooly, a former RTÉ correspondent, expressed pride and elation at his election success. Responding to criticisms of Independent Ireland’s stance on climate change, Mr Mullooly said it was “clear” that he wasn’t “anti-green” or “a climate change denier”.

Mr Mullooly, elected at the expense of Sinn Féin candidate Michelle Gildernew, said there were lots of communities across the midlands and west “who are prepared to do their best in terms of improving and helping the environment, but we have to give people the infrastructure and a proper term of just transition”.

Ms Walsh, in her speech following election, said she was “proud and honoured” to be returned to the European Parliament, and highlighted the imbalance in gender representation within the Irish political landscape. “We must do more to ensure female voices, minority voices are heard in our democratic process,” she said.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist