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As it happened: Early tallies show close fight for European seats but confirm Green surge

Many of the races for EU seats are too close to call so we’re expecting a long count.

LAST UPDATE | May 25th 2019, 2:25 PM

THE BALLOT BOXES have been opened and tallies are starting to show a trend consistent with last night’s RTÉ exit poll.

The poll predicted a Green surge – with the party set to take an MEP seat in Dublin and  to be in the hunt for two more in Midlands North-West and Ireland South. 

Last night’s exit polls also showed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are neck-and-neck in the local elections on 23%, with Sinn Féin on 12% and Labour on 6%. 

We’re in for a long count by they way, we’ve a guide to exactly how long, and we’ll have reporters at the count centres. Follow them here: @christinafinn8@kathleen_mcn@AndrewNRoberts.

And here are some of the other early stories:

In case you were tucked up in bed when those exit polls results were announced, the Green Party’s candidate, Ciaran Cuffe, is set to top the European election poll in Dublin, and the party is in strong contention for seats in the two other constituencies.  

  • The exit poll has Ciarán Cuffe on 23% in Dublin, with Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald on 14%. Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews and Independent TD Clare Daly are both on 12%. Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan is on 10%; if these polls are correct, she will not be re-elected as an MEP.
  • The Green’s Saoirse McHugh is on 12%, which puts her in third place in the Midlands-NorthWest area. Fine Gael’s Mairéad McGuinness and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy are on 25% and 15% respectively in those areas.
  • Maria Walsh and Luke Ming Flanagan are in a battle for the final seat, as both are on 10%. Peter Casey looks almost certain to lose out, polling at 7%, just ahead of Fianna Fáil’s two candidates, Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte, who are on 6% and 3% respectively.
  • In Ireland South, Grace O’Sullivan is also on 12%, putting her in fourth place, closely behind Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada (13%) and Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher (13%). Sean Kelly has topped the polls there on 16%. If the polls are accurate, Independent TD Mick Wallace will win the fifth and last seat in this constituency (the poll puts him on 10%).   
You can find our full report on the exit polls here. Meantime, looks like Greens leader Eamon Ryan could be about to pocket a few quid. 

Ireland’s European elections got a mention on long-running satirical news quiz (TM) Have I Got News For You last night – by way of Dublin candidate Ben Gilroy’s infamous ‘man with hurley’ social media ad…. 

ben1 Have I Got News For You Have I Got News For You

The clip was met with a round of applause from the audience (who were then chastised by Ian Hislop: ‘What exactly are you clapping at?’).

The BBC being the BBC, host Victoria Coren Mitchell then noted that there were 15 minutes of voting left to go in Dublin and the station displayed the names of all the other candidates…

2 Have I Got News For You Have I Got News For You

We have more detail from RTÉ’s exit poll of 3,000 voters – remember this is just an exit poll, ballot boxes are only being opened now. We know it’s been a good election for the Green Party and in the Midlands North West constituency Saoirse McHugh appears to have done particularly well with younger voters.

23% of 18 to 24-year-olds told the exit poll they gave her a first preference. In this same constituency Mairead McGuinness, who is expected to top the poll, was most popular among the 65+ group of voters, with 35% of people in this age group polled saying they gave her their first preference.

This one from the RTÉ exit poll comes with a warning that the sample size is low, but it looks like there will be a high transfer rate (20%) from Mairead McGuinness (FG) to Saoirse McHugh (GP) in the Midlands North West constituency.

Ballot boxes are being opened across the country.

Like these from the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht in Kerry.

On that same battle in Midlands North-West, the exit poll also suggests some strong transfers from Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy to Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan 27%.

The Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is on RTÉ.

He says there’s nothing for sure yet but that if they were to take three seats it would be “massive” not only for his party but for the European Greens in the Parliament.

Ryan also says that his party has sensed growing support all over the country.

“In this election we had a sense that we were crossing boundaries that we hadn’t before.”

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly is also speaking about her party’s numbers in the exit poll. 

Her party’s Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan topped the poll five years ago but judging by the exit poll she could be now in fifth place on first preferences. 

The party’s other two MEPs look to have polled well, something O’Reilly is feeling good about. 

“Lookit, we are in contention for the retention of our three seats, ” she says. 

If you haven’t seen the  RTÉ / TG4 Exit Poll on the European elections. Here’s what it looks like:



Midlands North-West




The exit poll has all but predicted that the referendum to remove restrictions on divorce will be passed. 

This is being borne out based on sorting in the Kilkenny Count Centre.

On last night’s Late Late Show, David McCullagh joked that the Greens might be breaking out some elderflower wine in celebration. 

Well, it turns out their Ireland South candidates Grace O’Sullivan was listening.

Here’s a Dublin tally provided by Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Eoin Ó Broin. 

It’s from the Fonthill local electoral area and puts Frances Fitzgerald at about 21% followed by Lynn Boylan at 14%, Barry Andrews at about 11% and Ciarán Cuffe at about 8%.

It’s obviously just a tally based on one box and 250 votes, but still good to get some actual numbers.

PastedImage-10566 RTÉ-TG4 RTÉ-TG4

The RTÉ/TG4 exit poll has also indicated there is strong support for a united Ireland among Irish voters. 

According to the exit poll, 65% of voters polled indicated they’d vote in favour of a united Ireland if a referendum was held tomorrow while 19% said they would vote against such a proposal.

15% of respondents to the poll said they did not know or refused to answer the question.

Minister for Cabinet Minister for Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan is speaking about Fine Gael’s performance.

She said it was her party’s aim to consolidate her vote maybe gain some seats. 

The exit poll suggests this could be difficult for the party but Madigan says she is hopeful. 

The same on the European elections.

“It probably will be a battle and it will go on until Wednesday,” she says. 

Some more from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan who says  hopes “today will be a good day”.

Ryan added that remembers the wipeout his party suffered in the 2011 general election:

I remember the difficult days back in 2011, that time, the darkest hours, a tough time for us. But I remember seeing [RTÉ's] John Bowman and he said something that night; the Greens will actually come back because we represent a philosophy, an actual world view around it. I think the tide comes in and comes out, in terms of green thinking, but it continues to rise, the overall level of consciousness thinking. We have to make this leap. 

He said the party, despite the events of the past, would still be interested in going into government, but the priority now is to get its European and local seats “working successfully” so they can transfer this success into Dáil seats. 

Fair play to Labour Senator (and experienced tally man) Kevin Humphreys, who has decided to put his name on the line and call the European election in Dublin 30 minutes after the boxes opened.

Here’s what he’s said:

After having a look at quite lot of European ballots, I’m prepared to call as I see the result. No surprises with Ciarán Cuffe ramping home, Frances Fitzgerald coming in next. I see Clare Daly taking the third seat and Barry Andrews getting the fourth and maybe seat, at 9.30.

We’ll see how that prediction plays out when the first counts in the European election are announced tomorrow night at 10pm.

Just to give you some indication of what we’re looking at for the next few days.

We’ve put together a guide to when we’ll find out the results.

Throughout today and tomorrow, candidates will be filling seats across the 31 local authorities.

And it could go on even longer. By the Monday in 2014, there were still just under 40 council seats still to be filled. Again, there could be even more left unfilled by Monday morning this time around.

Either way, those counting the votes, and the anxious candidates waiting to see if they were elected, are set for a long weekend.

If we turn our attention to the local elections for a second. The exit poll puts Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in a dead heat for the national first preference.

In 2014, Fine Gael were at 24% and Fianna Fáil were on 25.5%, so both appear to have have fallen. 

Sinn Féin have fallen from 15.2% to 12% while the Greens have jumped from 1.6% to almost double figures. 

The Green surge has been especially marked in Dublin, where the exit poll puts them as the largest party at 18%.

Local election exit polls 

locals RTÉ RTÉ

locals 2 RTÉ RTÉ

And here are the Dublin exit poll figures from RTÉ’s Mícheál Lehane:

Sorters hard at work in the RDS count centre.

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COUNT 314_90571733 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

count 332_90571734 Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

count 312_90571736 Sam Boal Sam Boal

We mentioned earlier that the local vote for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have gone down while the Greens have gone up. 

Here’s where their votes came from according to that exit poll. 

These are the percentages the parties got among different groups. 

Fine Gael

fg 1 RTÉ RTÉ

Fianna Fáil

ff 1 RTÉ RTÉ


green 1 RTÉ RTÉ

The post-mortem has already started in some quarters and for Fianna Fáil in Midland’s North-West it can’t come soon enough.

My colleague Michelle Hennessy has been looking some of the Fianna Fáil reaction:  

The RTÉ/TG4 poll indicates the party’s candidate Dublin Barry Andrews will be battling it out with Independents4Change’s Clare Daly and Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan for a seat.

In the South constituency it looks like Billy Kelleher should win a seat and Malcolm Byrne is polling at 9%.

However in the Midlands North West constituency, where Pat The Cope Gallagher lost out on a seat in the 2014 election after two terms in the European Parliament, Fianna Fáil candidates Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte, could get just 9% of the vote between them.

Current TD and former MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher has said the party failed to learn lessons from the last European elections in 2014 when he lost his seat in the constituency. 

Speaking to the Donegal Democrat today, Pat The Cope Gallagher, who is a sitting TD and  said Leas-Cheann Comhairle of the Dáil, “lessons have not been learned” from the 2014 election when he lost his seat.

At the time he had said the strategy of running two candidates was wrong and today he said the party had made the same mistake again. 

Eoin O’Malley, associate professor in political science at DCU’s School of Law and Government told that Fianna Fáil’s performance in the Midlands North West constituency “seems to be shockingly bad”.

“In the European elections it certainly doesn’t look good,” he said.

PastedImage-15891 RTÉ RTÉ

Green Party local election candidates in neighbouring Dublin constituencies Patrick Costello and Hazel Chu have both spoken to RTÉ about their party’s strong performance.

Speaking about difficult past elections for the Greens, like in 2009, Costello says

I was down here on the floor it was a very dark day but John Gormley said at the time that the Green Party were a party of ideas and the ideas hadn’t gone away and I think with the climate emergency that we’re seeing now and the climate breakdown, it shows really that now is the time for those ideas.

Hazel Chu was asked about whether Irish people are ready for their policies, like hikes in carbon tax:

“I think they are but they need to be brought through to their process,” she said.

I think if you look at how we’ve introduced various taxes and charges in the past, we never brought people through or had that conversation on why it’s needed. And with the climate change, or call it what it is a climate breakdown or crisis, it is essential if we are to tackle the problem seriously.

Speaking of the two of them, some good news for both Patrick Costello and Hazel Chu as tallies have them both beating the quota and being elected on the first count. 

A full tally in Kimmage-Rathmines has Costello (GP) on top with 20.5%.

In Pembroke, an almost full tally has Chu (GP) on 33.1%, more than twice the second placed candidate. 

They could very well be battling for a seat when the votes are counted in Midlands North-West, but sitting MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has been getting a lot of praise for his tweet last night about breakout Green star Saoirse McHugh. 

Whether she takes a seat or not, Saoirse McHugh’s performance in the RTÉ Prime Time debate on Tuesday is what got people talking about her and even her party

But could it really have made such a difference? 

We asked RTÉ for its viewing figures for the three debates and the broadcaster has said that more people watched the Midlands North-West debate she was involved in than the other two debates. 

Here are the figures from RTÉ:

The three television debates broadcast on RTÉ One earlier this week reached a cumulative audience of 878,000 viewers who watched at least five minutes.

The viewing figures for the individual debates were:

Prime Time Election Debate on the Ireland South constituency on Sunday at 10.35pm attracted an average audience of 169,000 across the hour long programme

Claire Byrne Live Election Debate on the Dublin constituency on Monday night at 10.35pm also saw an average of 169,000 viewers watch the hour long programme

Prime Time Election Debate on the Midland’s North West constituency on Tuesday night at the earlier time of 9.35pm attracted an average audience of 234,000.

Interestingly, the demographic break down of the viewing figures shows that the Ireland South debate attracted an average share of 29% in Munster, the Dublin debate attracted 24.7% in Dublin and the Midlands NW debate saw a high share of 41.4% in Connacht/Ulster.

As the tallies continue to pour in,’s Dominic McGrath has been looking at some trends and talking points: 

  • The big story this morning has been the Green Party’s surge in the European elections, with the exit polls predicting the party could win three seats. But the party is also doing consistently well in the local elections too – even well beyond Dublin and the commuter belt. From Naas to Dun Laoghaire and to Dingle, the party’s candidates are enjoying significant and somewhat unprecedented support. In Dublin’s Blackrock, for instance, tallies suggest a 22-year old Green Party candidate could top the poll
  • There seems to be early signs of unrest among Labour supporters. The party is predicted to have a somewhat disappointing European election, with none of the candidates in Dublin, Ireland South and Midlands North-West really in the running to take a seat, according to the exit polls. University College Dublin politics professor Aidan Regan reckons that the election results indicate that it’s time for leadership changes in Labour, the Social Democrats and a push for a “strategic alliance” – a suggestion already being endorsed by some party members. Pressure will mount on Brendan Howlin in the coming days if the local election results prove underwhelming, especially in Dublin. On RTÉ today, Senator and former junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who lost his seat in the Dáil at the last election, admitted: “We haven’t had a good day. Maybe we expected to be forgiven today.” However, he rejected the suggestion that Brendan Howlin should stand down as leader. 

  • People are divided on whether the results mean a general election could be looming over the horizon or kicked further down the road. On RTÉ this morning, University College Cork’s Theresa Reidy noted that a significant number of by-elections would need to take place in the coming months if Clare Daly (Ind), Mick Wallace (Ind), Frances Fitzgerald (FG) and Billy Kelleher (FF) are all elected in the European elections. That’s something Fine Gael party bosses will factor in when deciding whether going to the country in a Dáil election is the right move.
  • In case you were wondering… If Ciarán Cuffe is elected as an MEP, as seems nearly certain, his “casual vacancy” will see Green Party members choose his replacement on Dublin City Council.
  • Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, is predicted to have a bad day. Two of the three councillors he works with are reportedly set to lose their seats. Latest tallies from Glencullen-Sandyford suggest that one of those, Independent Kevin Daly, is on less than 4% of the vote’s Dominic McGrath with a few more talking points: 

count 312_90571736 Votes are counted at the RDS in Dublin. Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

  • The big story for Fianna Fáil is the party’s dramatic failure to make any ground in Midlands-North West, where exit polls put Brendan Smyth TD and Anne Rabbitte TD on 6% and 3% respectively. However, another narrative is emerging – one that might cause more sleepless nights for the party in the long-term. Among young people, the Fianna Fáil vote is basically in freefall across the country. As News Editor Sinead O’Carroll notes, Brendan Smith is showing 0% share of the vote among 18-24 year olds according to the exit poll – this is compared to 12% in the over-65 demographic. In Dublin, ex-junior minister Barry Andrews is at 2% among 18-24 year olds. While it may be no surprise that this age group has largely plumped for the Greens nationwide, Fianna Fáil will be worried by the (almost total) lack of enthusiasm among young people for the party.

  • While the projected vote share for each party is what’s guiding much of the analysis as we await more concrete results, Maynooth professor and election expert Adrian Kavanagh has suggested that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil might do better in seat returns than the vote share indicates (the parties are neck and neck on 23% in the exit polls).  
  • One of the major Dublin stories is Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan MEP and her somewhat precarious position in the Dublin constituency. On RTÉ this morning, SF’s Louise O’Reilly insisted her party colleague was still well in contention for the last seat. Boylan seems to be far away from the poll-topping position she enjoyed in 2014, when she received 23.62% of first preference votes. According to the RTÉ/TG4 exit poll, she’s dropped to 10% and is far from guaranteed to retain her seat. 
  • Finally, for Fine Gael the elections could end up being disappointing. Deirde Clune’s seat in Ireland South looks like it could be in danger and while the sitting MEP proved in 2014 that she’s a transfer-friendly candidate, it will be a long while before the party knows for certain whether she’s safe. The party looks tied with Fianna Fáil at in the local elections, which might be a relief given the plethora of scandals – from housing, to broadband to Maria Bailey’s swing incident - that have dogged the party in recent days and weeks. 



The story in Ireland is quite different to elsewhere in Europe where most countries are seeing a rise in populist candidates of the far-right. 

The fact that Ireland’s results seem to have borne out a rejection of this politics has been noticed abroad. 

French councillor Mike Bresson writes that pro-EU parties have won in both Ireland and the Netherlands. 

He also notes that Ireland’s party of the Prime Minister (Fine Gael of course) looks like having the best results in the European elections. 

France 24 is also going strong on the line that Irish people have overwhelmingly picked pro-EU candidates

For European viewers, this is especially true in contrast to the UK where the Brexit Party is expected to win the most seats. 

Serious business in the RDS as the ballots are being moved.


Our political correspondent is down there. Here’s the latest from here:’s Christina Finn here at the RDS where the votes have been separated, with referendum votes and European election votes are soon to transported (under close guard) to other centres for counting.

Counting is yet to get underway here, with most counters actually on their lunch break at the moment (they’ve been separating votes since 9am) Some here saying first count here isn’t expected until at least teatime others saying 3.30ish, so stay tuned.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring has just arrived, as has Minister of State Finian McGrath. We grabbed the minister for a quick chat, and asked him about the Green swing vote. He said it is something that has to be listened to, and said people will see government action on the issue.

Join us over on the TJ Politics Facebook page shortly LIVE from the RDS where we’ll be giving you the lowdown

Here’s more from Minister of State Finian McGrath who told our reporter Christina Finn that the so called ‘Green Wave’ is “one of those things that happens in politics”.

He said it is a message to all politicians to “really get our act together” in relation to climate change and environmental issues. He promised voters “will see action on it”.

There’s potentially a big story breaking with talk that the plebiscite on introducing a directly elected Mayor in Cork has been defeated. 


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has told Red FM that the government’s efforts on the plebiscite were “shambolic”.

Just hold it on a separate day, have a separate debate about it. And that’s why I think it’s a long time since we had an electoral commission established to oversee the organisation of elections and referendums properly and professionally This was just shambolic and a mess by the government.

Watch this space. 

The Green Party’s Saoirse McHugh has been speaking to RTÉ’s western correspondent Pat McGrath.  

Achill native McHugh is in third place according to RTÉ’s opinion poll, so is in a really good place to win a seat. 

Asked why has her pitch has been successful, she says she’s not sure:

“I wonder is it just because it was honest? I’m not really fully sure myself.”

And how did she end up running?

I had been going to all different politicians with different kinds of environmental policy proposals and what I was thinking was: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get one environmental policy that all different parties could sign up to because then there wouldn’t be bills blocked because they’re opposition bills?

And in one of these meetings I was talking to Eamon Ryan and saying to him you have to get the trade unions involved, they have to be part of this. And he said: ‘Why don’t you run?’

And the only reason I could think of was fear and I didn’t. So I said, fine I’ll do it and I did. 

And with Saoirse McHugh giving us her take on the ‘Green Wave’, we’re going to end this early live blog and start a new one.

But stay with us as we’ll have all the results as they come in.

We’re expecting some declarations in the next half an hour.

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