Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada has conceded defeat in the Ireland South elections after a marathon count and partial recount.
However, Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan and out-going MEP Deirdre Clune will now have to fight it out for the fourth seat and the final ‘Brexit seat’ which cannot be taken up until Britain leaves the EU.
After four days of counting Ms Ní Riada called a recount last week after just 327 votes separated her and Ms O’Sullivan, however, Sinn Féin made the decision to withdraw the recount request this evening after counters had carefully gone through each of the candidates’ ballots.
Speaking after another dramatic day at the Nemo Rangers count centre, Mr Ní Riada’s election agent Jonathan O’Brien said the party did not want to unnecessarily prolong the process and said the partial recount had “brought clarity to the situation”.
Congratulating the Green Party, the Sinn Féin TD for Cork North-Central said the decision to call a recount last week had been the right one.
Reacting, Ms O’Sullivan said Ms Ní Riada had “served the country very well” as an MEP in the last parliament.
Ms Ní Riada’s 98,379 votes will be distributed when the count resumes tomorrow morning to determine the final seats in the 12-county constituency.
Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly and Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher had already reached the quota and had been deemed elected, Independent’s 4 Change candidate Mick Wallace is expected to take the third seat.
It means that Ms Ní Riada’s transfers will be crucial in deciding which of the two remaining seats Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Clune win.
Returning officer Martin Harvey had drafted in experienced counters from Cork’s City and County Halls to speed up the painstaking process of checking every single vote again.
Around 140 counters will be on hand tomorrow morning to carry out the final count.
Explaining the recount process earlier today, Mr Harvey said: “At the moment each of the counters has 1,000 votes in front of them, the bands of those 1,000 keeping them together has been cut and each counter is now counting those individually to make sure that the vote credited to the candidate is correct.”
Counter are firstly going through the papers of Ms Ní Riada and Ms O’Sullivan, which is expected to take much of the day.
“It is going quite well now, we have a good team around us and hopefully we would finalise that later this evening,” said Mr Harvey.
“We go each and every one of the papers slowly and surely, then make sure the band of 50 is correct, that it tots 50 and then we make sure we have 20 bands of 50 to make up the 1,000 [in each bundle].”