Irish coalition parties on top after marathon European election counts

FILE PHOTO: European Parliament election vote counting, in Dublin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's two main coalition parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, each won four of the 14 seats contested for the European Parliament after marathon election counts ended on Friday, with the main opposition Sinn Fein trailing both on two seats.

While that represented a one seat gain for Sinn Fein on the last election in 2019, the party had hoped to do much better in the European and local council elections held on the same day, only to get around half the vote of each of their main rivals.

The left wing party was polling as high as 35% in October but its commanding three-year opinion poll lead disappeared ahead of last Friday's elections as more voters came to see immigration as their top concern rather than affordable housing, an issue which Sinn Fein dominated.

It picked up 12% of the first preference vote in the local council elections and 11% in the European polls, which took almost six days to count under Ireland's more complex proportional representation electoral system.

The four seats won by Prime Minister Simon Harris' centre-right Fine Gael, a member of the largest political family in the European parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), was down one on 2019. Fianna Fail, part of the liberal Renew Europe camp, gained two.

Most of the remaining seats went to independent candidates, a disparate and already large political force in Ireland that also made gains in the local elections.

While no right-wing candidates from Ireland won election to Brussels, bucking a wider trend in the bloc, one high profile anti-immigration candidate polled relatively well in the Irish south constituency and far right candidates won a handful of the 949 council seats, also a gain on five years ago.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)