A ‘cliffhanger’ looms in the battle for European seats in Midlands-North-West, however Cavanman Brendan Smith looks unlikely to be amongst the nailbiters as he already appears to be out of contention.
Tallies were only conducted on 66% of 134 European election ballot boxes in County Cavan, and as expected, Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith polled highest, with 7421 tallied votes. That equated to 36.76%, but the former agriculture minister's good showing locally doesn't appear to been replicated elsewhere in the vast constituency.
Certain of re-election is sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness (FG) who will top the poll. Much will hinge on Ms McGuinnness’s surplus as to who takes further seats. The (incomplete) Cavan tallies showed that the European Parliament Vice President polled exceptionally well locally with 4634 votes (22.94%); significantly outstripping Matt Carthy of Sinn Féin. However, despite the party's poor showing in the local elections, the sitting MEP, is reckoned to remain strongly in the running. The limited tallies in Cavan showed him with 2897/14.34% votes.
Obviously sitting MEP Luke Ming Flanagan is in contention. Locally, the Roscommon man polled in fourth.
Two Mayo based candidates, Maria Walsh (FG) and Achill native Saoirse McHugh (Green Party) are showing well in early, if scanty, tallies. Maria, the former Rose of Tralee, who should benefit from a significant McGuinness surplus, is the most likely of the Mayo pair to get elected.
In Cavan, neither made huge impacts on the polls, with Walsh's tallies amounting to 805 (3.99%), and McHugh obtained 912 (4.52%).
Never the less McHugh, analysts suggest, remains in with a strong chance of, what would have been a surprise a week ago, taking a seat.
“Saoirse may be fighting for the last seat”, Marian Harkin, who narrowly won a seat for Fine Gael in 2014 reckoned late on Sunday in Castlebar.
Some experts are speculating that McHugh will beat fellow Independent Peter Casey in the joust for the final seat.
“Peter Casey will be in with a chance but I don’t think he will be elected,” Ms. Harkin speculated. “His transfers will be crucial in determining the final result.”
Cavan tallies for the Independent candidate were underwhelming - 1071 (5.30%) - when you consider his appeal in the presidential election where he came second only to the encumbant.
With his party candidates – Brendan Smith and Ann Rabbitte – showing signs from early tally figures of polling poorly, Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary admitted that the FF showing in Midlands-North-West was ‘disappointing’.
“We will have to look at the constituency in a radically different way,” the Mayo TD mused.
Mr. Calleary praised Saoirse McHugh for what he described as “a phenomenal performance’.
Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, said he was very pleased with the election results on all fronts.
As counting got underway he commented: “It looks like Mairead and Maria (FG candidates) will be elected.
“That’s a great result for Fine Gael. I am very happy.”
It will be at least Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday, before the final seats in Midlands-North-West are decided.