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Dogfights, protests and predictions of a recount: Everything happening in Midlands North West

The first count in the constituency is due this afternoon.

AFTER SEVERAL HOURS of vote-counting yesterday, no results were revealed in the vast Midlands North West constituency.

The first count is expected to be announced in Castlebar this afternoon.

Independent candidate Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is set to be the first elected, according to RTÉ’s exit poll and several tallies. The Roscommon TD said he “couldn’t say” he was surprised at his level of success, given the positive reaction he has been getting from the public.

“I have been canvassing on and off for about 17 years and I never ever got a reaction even close to it. For example, when I got out of the car in Cavan it took me two and a half hours to get about 60 or 70 yards away from the car. I had a bizarre situation – I didn’t go up and canvass people, for some reason they came over to me.”

Flanagan told TheJournal.ie it was “very heartening” that so many independent candidates were being elected, adding that he hoped Marian Harkin would also secure a seat in Europe as they could “work very well together”.

Harkin said that she and Flanagan “differ on lots of things politically”, however she described him as “a very competent candidate who has tapped into what is happening in Ireland at the moment in a way that resonates with people”.

“When you do that, the votes come to you. It’s as simple as that.”

The sitting MEP said that connecting with voters in the extra counties added to the redrawn constituency “proved impossible for me”.

“For the first couple of weeks we were explaining to people what constituency they were in and then we were trying to tell them who I was … 43 per cent of the electorate never saw my name on the ballot paper before.”

She said she was in  ”dogfight territory” with the two Fianna Fáil candidates Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher and Thomas Byrne for the fourth seat, even predicting a recount.

The exit poll suggests the pair are running neck-and-neck at 11 per cent.

Harkin noted that “people angry with Europe”, stating: “Europe not only failed Ireland, it failed itself and the way it dealt with Ireland.”

20140525_221501 Marian Harkin

The exit poll suggests that Flanagan could receive 20 per cent of the vote in the constituency, followed by sitting MEP Maireád McGuinness, Fine Gael, on 16 per cent and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carty at 13 per cent.

‘Very dangerous strategy’

Gallagher was not conceding the vote last night, although he admitted vote dilution was an issue for him and running mate Byrne.

He said he had warned party leader Michéal Martin of the “very dangerous strategy” of running two candidates in the constituency back in February, to no avail.

“If we’re to lose a seat here, in the heartlands of Fianna Fáil – from Laois Offaly right up to Donegal … then I believe it’s because of the strategy.”

Gallagher added that Byrne would receive more transfers from him than vice versa.

‘Casualties all over the battlefield’

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted sitting MEP Jim Higgins was “in trouble” and thanked him for his service to the Fine Gael party.

However, Higgins was defiant today and refused to concede, noting that he was “written off completely” in the 2004 European election only to be elected.

On this occasion there’s no doubt about it. The speculation may be justified because of the tsunami that’s been against the government. It’s been a bad day at the office for the government and that is reflected in the way the local authority seats have fallen. We’ve lost, we’ve had casualities all over the battlefield.

Higgins said he was “certainly not writing myself out of the equation” but admitted he and running mate Mairead McGuinness could have done more the divide the mammoth constituency “strategically”.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy admitted that the exit poll and tally figures were indicating “conflicting” outcomes but said he was “fairly relaxed”.

He added that regardless of him winning a seat, this had been ”an absolutely fantastic weekend for Sinn Féin”.

Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

Independent candidate Mark Fitzsimons, who was also running for a seat on Louth town council, criticised Kenny for avoiding a protestors from ‘Ireland Says No’, an anti-austerity group, outside the count centre.

Fitzsimons has conceded, but said he was “delighted” that Flanagan seemed destined to top the poll. Luke Flanagan Snr made a point of approaching Fitzsimons to congratulate him on running.

Senator Rónán Mullen has also conceded the election. The independent candidate said the campaign had been “humbling” and showed him “many, many more people were on my wavelength than against my wavelength”

Last night Mullen wouldn’t rule out running in the 2016 General Election, saying “everything’s on the table”.

“Elections give you a great chance to get your message out, to promote your ideas. To build up your profile, to be frank, and I think my profile is enormously higher now.”

20140525_204703 Rónán Mullen

He said it was a “privilege” to be a member of Seanad Éireann but noted: “It’s lovely to be able to go up and ask somebidy for their vote without asking them first whether they have a degree from a certain college or not.”

Mullen said he was hoping to “break the five per cent” in the vote.

“Fifteen years ago, on a Sunday night, I remember doing an interview with Raidió na Gaeltachta and a guy was after getting 5,000 votes on the firt count in the old North West Connacht Ulster constituency and tonight that man is a man called Flanagan and he’s doing very well this evening.”

Labour’s Lorraine Higgins, Mark Dearey of the Green Party, Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland, Cordelia Níc Fhearraigh of Fís Nua, and independent TJ Fay are also running in the constituency.

Related: ‘We’ve been waiting for 100 years for someone to come and save us’ – Ming calls for political change

Read: Enda Kenny refuses to rule out coalition with Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil

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Órla Ryan

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