Cuffe becomes first Green elected to Europe since 2004

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 27th, 2019

Ciaran Cuffe has become the first Green Party member to be elected to the European Parliament in over 15 years.

The first Green elected to Europe since Patricia McKenna’s victory in the 2004 race, the Dublin City councillor and former Junior Minister reached the quota in the capital race after the 13th count.

An elated Cuffe said that his election formed part of the green wave “sweeping Europe”, reserving special praise for the push in support afforded to his party by Ireland’s youth.

“I think today and this weekend shows that young people want to see change, they have spoken to their parents and grandparents and I think the people have voted for an alternative to business as usual,” he said.

Cuffe added that he was “really heartened” by the result this evening and by the election of nearly 50 green councillors across Ireland out of 82 candidates put forward for election.

Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness was the first Irish MEP elected today, reaching the quota in the Midlands North West constituency on the first count with 22 per cent of the vote.

Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald was also elected in Dublin this evening, with Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews and Clare Daly of Independents4Change vying for the last guaranteed seat.

The fourth and final seat in the capital constituency will be frozen until such time as the UK leaves the European bloc.

Saoirse McHugh, the Green candidate in the Midlands North West, is facing a steep climb to reach the fourth and final seat in the constituency.

While the RTE/TG4 exit poll had placed McHugh at 12 per cent, she came in at just under eight per cent of the first preference vote behind Independent Peter Casey and Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh in the battle for the fourth seat.

Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan is poised to battle it out for the fourth spot in the South constituency, with Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly leading the pack, just short of the quota on the first count.

Saoirse McHugh at Environmental Pillar hustings Photo: Niall Sargent

Green wave across Europe

Cuffe is part of the green wave that has hit several European countries this election cycle, with the Greens/EFA grouping expected to see a 50 per cent bump in numbers.

The counting of tallies across the bloc indicates that the green alliance of MEPs is set to win 75 seats, an increase of 25 from the last election in 2014. This would give them almost 10 per cent of seats in the Parliament.

The Green’s strongest performance is in Germany, where the greens are in second behind the centre-right CDU, nearly doubling their votes from 2014. The French greens are also performing strongly.

The European Green Party co-leader Bas Eickhout said that the Irish people have shown they want to elect representatives “capable of delivering climate action at a local and European level”.

“I congratulate the Irish Greens on a vibrant campaign that has crossed rural boundaries and clearly won the trust of local communities across the country,” he added.

Election count at RDS Photo: Niall Sargent

Progress in the locals

With over 97 per cent of the 949 seats declared in the local elections as of this evening, the Green Party is on course for its stronger ever showing, largely at the expense of Sinn Féin.

The Greens have shown a robust return in numbers, with almost 50 of its 82 candidates elected so far, taking seats in the likes of Offaly and Westmeath for the first time.

Overall, the party’s share of the vote is up by almost four per cent on five years ago, with Sinn Féin taking the biggest hit, down almost six per cent.

Speaking to The Green News in Cork yesterday, Grace O’Sullivan said that the public’s support of environmental policies is going to force other parties to “understand” the issues and work with the Greens for change.

“I have met candidates running for other parties who were talking about plastic pollution, but they didn’t really understand what they were talking about,” she said.

“Now they are going to realise that they have to know what they are talking about,” she added.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London