Socialist Party activist Joe Higgins today secured a stunning victory in the European elections to rob Fianna Fáil of its only MEP in Dublin.
Mr Higgins, who once spent a month in jail over a campaign against bin taxes, beat Eoin Ryan by almost 7,000 votes for the final seat in the constituency, as dawn was breaking.
The former TD, who vowed to be a powerful voice in Brussels for workers and the unemployed, was declared elected at 5.15am after 400 counting staff had worked through the night at the RDS.
Mr Higgins picked up a massive 22,000 transfers from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald to push him past Mr Ryan following the seventh and final count.
Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael was elected before midnight while Labour’s MEP Proinsias de Rossa reached the 101,658 quota shortly before 4am.
Flanked by his elderly mother and dozens of young supporters, Mr Higgins said: “European countries are dominated by right-wing governments which are trotting out the same capitalist policies as here in Ireland and making working people pay for their mistakes.”
He pledged to unite workers in Ireland and across the EU.
When asked about how he would cope with the gruelling travel to parliamentary business in Brussels and Strasbourg, he said: “I’ve travelled far and wide in the interests of socialism and so I’m sure we’ll manage.”
He said he would take the average industrial wage of his salary and his legitimate expenses would be published.
Mrs Ellen Higgins, who visited her son regularly in Mountjoy Prison in 2003, said: “I’m proud of him. I think he’s very good.”
A native of Co Kerry, Mr Higgins, aged 60, once studied for the priesthood but later became an atheist.
His incisive contributions in the Dáil made him a thorn in the side of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern from 1997-2007.
His election campaign was funded on a shoestring budget and his black and white posters claimed he was: ’The Best Fighter Money Can’t Buy’.
A dejected Mr Ryan warmly congratulated Mr Higgins on his 83,366 tally and admitted he was punished by voters for Fianna Fail’s harsh but necessary economic decisions in the national interest.
“It doesn’t matter whether it is Brian Cowen or Enda Kenny or anybody else leading the Government.
“These decisions have to be made in tough economic times and I suffered because of that,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t want the Government to make the wrong decisions to save my seat because the decisions they are making are in all of our best interests in the long run.
“I’ve been in his room many times and I have won. That’s politics. If you take the good days you got to be able to take the bad days and today is a bad day.”
When asked about his future plans, he said: “I’m not that old, I’m sure I’ll find something.”
He added: “One thing I want to do now is to try to get my daughter to settle down to do her Leaving Certificate.”
Mr Ryan’s other daughter, Sarah failed to take a local election seat in the south inner city, compounding the disappointment for the family.
But he said: “We’re strong enough. My daughter has bounced back within 24 hours. It’s incredible. She has a great career ahead of her whatever she wants to do.”
Former Green MEP Patricia McKenna finished on 25,636 votes – about 3,500 more than Senator Deirdre de Burca – which means she can recoup some of her election expenses.
*Gay Mitchell (FG) 96,715
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 83,471
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 55,346
Joe Higgins (Soc) 50,510
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 47,928
Deidre de Burca (Green) 19,086
Eibhlin Byrne (FF) 18,956
Patricia McKenna (Ind McK) 17,521
Caroline Simons (Libertas) 13,514
Emmanuel Sweeney (Ind Sw) 3,583
Eliminated: Caroline Simons, Emmanuel Sweeney
Party share of poll:
FG 96,715 (23.78%, +2.27%)
Lab 83,471 (20.53%, -2.00%)
FF 74,302 (18.27%, -4.95%)
Soc 50,510 (12.42%, +6.92%)
SF 47,928 (11.79%, -2.53%)
Green 19,086 (4.69%, -4.90%)
Ind McK 17,521 (4.31%)
Libertas 13,514 (3.32%)
Ind Sw 3,583 (0.88%)
Distribution of Simons’s and Sweeney’s votes
*Gay Mitchell (FG) 99,098
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 85,217
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 56,317
Joe Higgins (Soc) 52,457
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 50,097
Deidre de Burca (Green) 20,226
Eibhlin Byrne (FF) 19,448
Patricia McKenna (Ind McK) 21,523
Eliminated: Eibhlin Byrne
Distribution of Byrne’s votes
*Gay Mitchell (FG) 100,810
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 87,274
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 66,205
Joe Higgins (Soc) 53,038
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 50,980
Deidre de Burca (Green) 21,991
Patricia McKenna (Ind McK) 22,380
Eliminated: Deidre de Burca
Distribution of de Burca’s votes
*Gay Mitchell (FG) 104,413
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 94,306
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 68,517
Joe Higgins (Soc) 55,116
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 52,447
Patricia McKenna (Ind McK) 25,213
Elected: Gay Mitchell
Distribution of Mitchell’s surplus
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 95,636
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 69,122
Joe Higgins (Soc) 55,351
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 52,529
Patricia McKenna (Ind McK) 25,636
Eliminated: Patricia McKenna
Distribution of McKenna’s votes
*Proinsias De Rossa (Lab) 103,225
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 71,530
Joe Higgins (Soc) 60,165
*Mary-Lou McDonald (SF) 55,429
Elected: Proinsias De Rossa
Eliminated: Mary-Lou McDonald
Distribution of McDonald’s votes
*Eoin Ryan (FF) 76,956
Joe Higgins (Soc) 83,366
Elected: Joe Higgins
Electorate 801,150; Turnout 406,630 (50.76%, -2.86%)
2004: Turnout 435,136 (53.62%)
First Count – Mitchell (FG) 90,749; Ryan (FF) 61,681; McDonald (SF) 60,395; De Rossa (Lab) 54,344; Bacik (Lab) 40,707; McKenna (Green) 40,445; Brady (FF) 36,269; Higgins (Soc) 23,218; Despard (CSP) 5,352; Price (Ind Price) 4,814; Prendeville (Ind P) 2,071; Doonan (Ind Doonan) 1,853.
Elected: Mitchell, Ryan, McDonald, De Rossa