Sinn Féin fighting to retain seats in Republic's three EU constitituencies
SINN Féin was last night fighting to retain their seats in each of the Republic's three EU constituencies.
Following on from a disappointing show in the local elections, its European candidates also saw the numbers of first preference votes fall.
Sinn Féin's former presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada was lying in fifth place in five-seat Ireland South after the first count, just over 3,000 ahead of her Green Party rival.
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly topped the first count in the constituency.
In four-seat Dublin, Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan was in fifth place on first preferences and was struggling to hold her seat in a battle with independent left-wing Clare Daly. The republican's bete noire in this round of elections, the Green Party was once again ahead with its candidate Ciaran Cuffe elected in Dublin.
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Best placed of the Sinn Féin candidates was Matt Carthy, who polled 77,619 to sit in third place in the four-seat Midlands Northwest constituency after the first round
The first seat in that constituency was taken Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness in what was proving to be a strong election for the party, with the incumbent MEP topping the poll with 134,630 first-preference votes
Indeed the success of the Green Party is the biggest story of the weekend elections in the Republic, with it predicted to take more than 50 seats in local government.
Despite this, Fianna Fáil is on course to remain the largest party across the Republic's councils, giving the best performance of all parties with a 26.9 per cent share of the vote.
Rivals Fine Gael were a close second with 25.3 per cent.
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would not rule out an early general election as the European elections are being contested by a number of TDs, triggering a round of by-elections if elected.
The two parties are in a confidence and supply arrangement.
The elections are the second of Mary Lou McDonald's tenure as Sinn Féin leader which has seen support fall, with huge losses on councils and a disappointing presidential election.
In Dublin it lost almost half of its councillors, with 18 representatives, down from 32.
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There are around 30 council seats left to be filled across the country, with counting expected to end later today.
As he prepared to endure a fight for the final of the Midlands North West seats, Mr Carthy, said the fall in his first preference votes from the previous election "isn't surprising given the weekend we're after having".
"It's been devastating for so many hardworking councillors," he said.
"There's going to be big questions asked because at this point, there's not one single thing I can point to, it's not as if we lost our vote to a single entity.
"It's not like we just lost votes to the Greens, we lost votes to independents, we lost votes to Fianna Fail - God help us, we lost votes to the Labour party - I'm told they still exist in some parts.
"We're going to have to ask big questions of ourselves and it's going to be an intensive discussion internally."
Meanwhile, Limerick voters will have the chance directly elect a mayor by 2022 after a plebiscite passed by 52.4 per cent to 47.6 per cent.
Voters in Cork and Waterford narrowly rejected the change in favour of keeping the existing local authority structures.