Transfers will be crucial as counting under way in European elections

Staff emptying the ballot boxes and begin counting the votes in the Local, European elections and the referendum amendment on divorce at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Counting is under way in the European elections where the Greens could pick up as many as three seats.

However, it will be at least 10pm before the first Irish MEPs are elected as all countries must wait until polls close across Europe to announce the results.

In Ireland South a 2ft ballot paper, featuring 23 candidates could slow up the count.

In that constituency an RTÉ exit poll has predicted that Fine Gael's Sean Kelly will top the poll with 16% of first preferences, this is followed by Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada and Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher both on 13%, while Grace O'Sullivan of the Green Party is on 12% of first preference votes.

However, in all of the three European constituencies transfers will be crucial and could see Mick Wallace, Malcolm Byrne or Deirdre Clune leap-frog other candidates in the South.

In Dublin Green candidate Ciarán Cuffe, who has already been elected to Dublin city council, looks likely to top the poll, while sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness is expected to lead the poll in Midlands North West.

Fianna Fáil look set to be without an MEP in the Midlands North West constituency despite fielding two candidates

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary said lessons would have to be learned from the poor performance but said he is still hopeful two seats can be won in the South and one in Dublin.

"It's a bad result for us in terms of the European Elections," he told Newstalk this morning.

At local level, Fianna Fáil are on course to remain the largest party while there have been significant losses for Sinn Féin.

However, the story of the local elections has been the surge in support for the Green Party who could increase their seats from 12 to at least 30 across the country.

Congratulating the Green Party, Business Minister Heather Humphreys said the vote is a "clear message" that the public want to see more action on climate change.

However, she said "it will require big decisions and that won't be universally popular" adding that "big changes in lifestyle" would also be required.

Speaking on Newstalk Ms Humphreys said Minister Richard Bruton will be publishing a climate action plan soon but said this would require cross-party support and cooperation.

Asked about the possibility of a General Election, she said: "As far as I am concerned this Government is not focused on a General Election. The focus at the moment is Brexit and we need to be focused on that."

Counting to elect 949 council seats across 31 local authorities is continuing today, while counting of the plebiscites to introduce directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Galway will get underway tomorrow.

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