Mairéad McGuinness (Fine Gael) has just been returned to the Midlands-North West constituency in the European elections for the fourth time, after securing 134,630 first preference votes.

McGuinness was in strong contention to take that first seat from the moment the polls closed on Friday night, May 24.

The Red C RTÉ exit poll results, which were released shortly after voting concluded on Friday, indicated that she had secured 25% of the vote.

It was therefore almost inevitable that she would top the poll, and in doing so, the Co. Louth native has become the first MEP to be elected in Ireland.

Her running mate Maria Walsh secured 64,500 votes and is expected to gain substantially from McGuinness’ surplus and transfers.

Other candidates still very much in the race – in this four-seat constituency – include independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanaghan (85,034); Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy (77,619); Green Party’s Saoirse McHugh (51,019); and independent Peter Casey (56,650).

‘Caring for the environment’

Meanwhile, McGuinness, a sitting MEP in the constituency since 2004, currently serves as First Vice-President of the European Parliament and has campaigned on agricultural issues.

Recently, she pointed out that farmers in Ireland “would value help” as they endeavour to make their farms more environmentally friendly.

“Every farmer I speak with is adamant that they do not go out to harm the environment, and in fact would value help and support to make their farms more environmentally sustainable,” she said.

Reforming the policy must be done with the difficult, but not impossible, task of sustaining family farms and enhancing environmental delivery.

McGuinness also argued that cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would “hurt the financial sustainability of farms here”.

“These are the very farms for which direct support from CAP is a significant proportion of family income.”