Fianna Fáil European election candidate Billy Kelleher has claimed that the Irish people have rejected "populist, anti-migrant groups" and moved back to the center in the recent European and local elections.

Kelleher, who looks on course to retain his seat in the Ireland South constituency, added that people considered the alternatives to the Government parties and "rejected them resoundingly."

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have performed strongly in the local elections, with Fine Gael claiming 228 seats and Fianna Fáil claiming 217 seats at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, who had regularly polled above 30% over the past four years, has currently won 92 seats after receiving just 11.8% of the first preference vote.

Fine Gael received 23% of the first preference vote, while Fianna Fáil received 22.9%. Independent candidates polled strongly with 20.9% of the first preference vote.

A total of 872 of the 949 council seats have been filled at the time of publication. 

Kelleher credited Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin for the party's strong performance in the recent elections. He also credited Fianna Fáil's organization and the "critical importance" of centrist politics. 

"The public looked at others and rejected them resoundingly, both in terms of the very populist anti-migrant groupings on the right, but equally Sinn Féin as well in terms of their simplistic views to complex problems," Kelleher told reporters at the count center at Nemo Rangers GAA club in County Cork on Monday, the PA reports

"I think it was a very interesting election because there was a debate around the whole issue of the extremes on left and right and where the center would reside in modern Irish politics.

"I think that was answered emphatically yesterday both in the local elections and also the European elections, where people looked at the alternatives and wanted to go back to the center." 

Kelleher and Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly are poised to take the first two seats in the five-seat Ireland South constituency in the European elections, while Fianna Fáil's Barry Andrews and Fine Gael's Regina Doherty are expected to take the first two seats in the Dublin constituency. 

Counting remains ongoing in both the European and local elections.