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Billy Kelleher (FF) elected in Euro Election South at Nemo, CorkPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Billy Kelleher (FF) elected in Euro Election South at Nemo, CorkPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
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Kelleher off to Europe amid talks of a recount for final Ireland South seat 

FIANNA Fáil TD Billy Kelleher is heading to Europe, but Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada was left fighting for her seat after a dramatic turn in the marathon election count.

There were talks of a full recount tonight due to the narrow gap between Ms Ní Riada and Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, who were just 522 votes apart after the 17th count.

That count saw Mr Kelleher, a Cork North Central TD, topping the quota after his running mate Malcolm Byrne was eliminated, while sitting Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune made a Lazarus-like comeback that shocked many.

Billy Kelleher (FF) chats with Deirdre Clune (FG) at the count centre.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Billy Kelleher (FF) chats with Deirdre Clune (FG) at the count centre.
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

After a disappointing transfer from her Fine Gael running-mate Andrew Doyle and Labour’s Sheila Nunan, Ms Clune was in sixth, a few thousand behind Ms Ní Riada and Ms O’Sullivan. However, she won 8,192 transfers from Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne, leapfrogging both of them and was projected to take a seat. Sinn Féin confirmed that a full or partial recount would be considered if the gap between Ms Ní Riada and Ms O’Sullivan was too low, and logistics and the Bank Holiday weekend may see that delayed until next Tuesday.

Whether there is a recount or not, the sixth-place runner-up’s votes will need to be redistributed to determine who finishes in fourth and fifth place. Whoever finishes in fifth will have to wait for the UK to leave the EU before they can take up their seat.

A recount won’t affect Mr Kelleher, however, and he will be joining Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, who was re-elected to the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Wexford Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace is also projected to be heading to Brussels to represent Ireland South.

Speaking seconds after he was deemed elected, Mr Kelleher described how he felt.

“Elated, honoured, humbled — it’s democracy in action, isn’t it?

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be selected by your peers, by your citizens, the neighbours you know, the neighbours you don’t know.

“People from across the constituency that you’ve never met - so it’s a really humbling experience being quite truthful, and an emotional one.”

With a marathon count that started last weekend, he said that it was a “rollercoaster” for everyone involved.

“It has been a roller-coaster for everybody but it shows what we should value in this country, our democracy, giving people their say and making sure that people are held to account.”

Billy Kelleher (FF) celebrating with party leader Micheál Martin.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Billy Kelleher (FF) celebrating with party leader Micheál Martin.
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

His party leader, Micheál Martin, congratulated him on his victory.

“I’m delighted for Billy. He’s a good parliamentarian. He proved that in the Dáil over many years.

“He’s a great legislator. He has a great capacity to develop consensus in a parliament. We saw that during the Eighth Amendment and other issues in the Dáil in the past four to five years.

“In Europe, it’s all about consensus, working in committees with people who may not share your political perspective,” he said.