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Newcomer McHugh set for shock seat in Midlands North West

Saoirse McHugh got 12% of the first preference votes, according to the Red C poll

Green Party first-time candidate Saoirse McHugh is in with a shock chance of winning a seat in the European parliament after an eye-catching final few days of campaign saw her odds slashed drastically.

Ms McHugh, a 28-year-old environmentalist from Achill Island in Mayo, is in real contention to squeeze out both sitting MEP Luke Ming Flanagan and Fine Gael's celebrity candidate Maria Walsh for a seat in Midlands North West.

According to an RTE-TG4-Red C exit poll published on Friday night:

  • Maread McGuinness, Fine Gael, is on 23%
  • Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin, 15%
  • Saoirse McHugh, Greens, 12%
  • Luke Ming Flanagan, Independent, 10%
  • Maria Walsh, Fine Gael, 10%
  • Peter Casey, Independent, 7%
  • Brendan Smith, Fianna Fáil, 6%
  • Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil, 3%
  • Dominic Hannigan, Labour, 3%

While Ms McHugh was expected to poll well - with Greens leader Eamon Ryan joking on Thursday he has a bet on her to win a seat - her exit poll placing has caught many by surprise.

The Midlands North West exit poll has also indicated that Fine Gael's sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness is expected to easily top the poll, a result that could see her transfers drag fellow candidate Ms Walsh over the line into the fourth seat.

That will put intense pressure on another MEP, Independent Mr Flanagan, and last year's presidential runner-up Mr Casey, who is on 7%.

If the exit poll is to be believed, Fianna Fáil is facing disaster in Midlands North West. After losing a seat by just 250 votes in 2014, neither Mr Smith nor Ms Rabbitte appear in any real contention in this year's European election race.

Party officials have previously raised concerns that the two TDs were failing to divide the party's traditional base in the constituency effectively and risked cancelling each other out.

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