Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson yesterday became the first Euro MP to be elected after topping the poll with almost 160,000 votes.
Meanwhile, the DUP’s Diane Dodds should also re-book a ticket to Brussels after notching more than 131,000 first preferences.
But the wife of DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds did not reach the required quota of votes on the first round of counting at Belfast’s King’s Hall, and although it looks highly likely she will secure her seat, the official count is set to continue today (see bottom right).
The third incumbent MEP, Jim Nicholson of the UUP, looks as if he is ahead in the race to secure the third seat – but the race is tighter than he would have liked.
With just under 83,500 votes, Mr Nicholson is ahead of the SDLP’s Alex Attwood on around 81,600.
Traditional Unionist Voice’s Jim Allister polled very strongly with more than 75,800 votes.
UKIP’s Henry Reilly received almost 24,600 votes and declared himself “elated”, having bargained for only 10,000-or-so votes.
Afterwards, Mr Allister said that these votes combined show “there’s 100,000 people disaffected from the present regime at Stormont”, adding: “Those are 100,000 people that other parties will be looking over their shoulder at”.
The NI Conservatives’ Mark Brotherston received around 4,150, while the Alliance’s Anna Lo notched nearly 44,500. The Green Party’s Ross Brown got around 10,600, and Tina McKenzie from NI21 got a few dozen less than that.
The votes had been cast last Thursday at the same time as Northern Ireland’s local government election.
Counting for seats on the region’s new-look councils started on Friday and ended in the early hours of Sunday.
Sinn Fein were far and away in the lead during the last election and had been touted to win again, but Mrs Anderson insisted she had never taken her favourite tag in the election for granted.
“I’m very honoured and proud that almost 160,000 people throughout the north have voted for myself,” she said.
The former Stormont junior minister hailed her party’s success as it was poised to take four seats across the island.
“For the first time every voter in Ireland is going to be represented by Sinn Fein,” she said.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among those cheering his party colleague’s victory north of the border.
“It’s a good day for Sinn Fein but I also think it’s a good day for the people of the island,” he said. “We will now hopefully have more conversations, more discussion, more debate about citizens’ rights, about a united Ireland and about the peace process.”
Mrs Dodds said if elected she would deliver the best deal in Brussels for Northern Ireland.
Noting the huge changes across the political landscape in Europe following the election, she said main parties in the UK had to acknowledge that the British people wanted a voice on the future of the EU.
“It is a signal to both Labour and the Conservatives – the British people want a say on our relationship with Europe,” she said.
“That democratic legitimacy has run out and people are saying that they want a referendum, we want it sooner rather than later and we want the debate about our relationship with the rest of Europe.”