Flanagan on course to win seat as Martin faces key test
INDEPENDENT TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is on course to win a seat in the European elections, at the expense of a high-profile sitting MEP, an Irish Independent Millward Brown opinion poll has found.
Mr Flanagan is among a number of candidates in a dogfight for the four seats in the Ireland Midlands-North-West constituency.
But Fine Gael is poised to take two seats in the Ireland South constituency.
Fianna Fail is in danger of failing to win a seat in Ireland MNW as its candidates Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher and Thomas Byrne are dividing the party vote.
A poor European elections result would be a disaster for Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and would raise questions about his leadership.
The poll of 1,500 voters across the three European constituencies was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy continues to lead the field in Ireland MNW on 19pc, followed by Mr Flanagan on 15pc.
The Independent TD is a controversial figure as he is a cannabis legalisation campaigner and admitted to having penalty points wiped.
But he was also a member of the group of Independent TDs who highlighted the allegations of Garda whistleblowers, which have come to a head in recent weeks. Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness has picked up to 13pc to pull well ahead of her running mate Jim Higgins, whose support has dropped substantially to 6pc.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin remains on 12pc, so she has a battle on her hands, but she remains the most attractive candidate for second preferences in the constituency.
Fianna Fail's fears of ending up with no seat are shown to be valid by this poll. Mr Gallagher rises marginally to 10pc, followed closely by his running mate Mr Byrne on 9pc, although his support has dropped substantially. The party's candidates have a quota between them but will have to transfer tightly.
Fianna Fail strategists will have to specifically target second preference votes from their own supporters to ensure the party wins a seat.
In Ireland South, Fianna Fail MEP Brian Crowley remains well out in front of the field, even after a slight drop in support, on 32pc.
Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada is also poised to win a seat on 16pc, while Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly has pulled ahead of his running mates to slot comfortably into third place on 15pc.
The last seat is down between his party colleagues Deirdre Clune on 10pc and Simon Harris on 9pc. Fine Gael's 34pc of the vote looks set to be enough to win two seats simply because nobody else is in the shake-up for the seats.
Labour Party MEP Phil Prendergast is up slightly to 6pc, while Independent Diarmuid O'Flynn is down to 4pc.
Fianna Fail's Kieran Hartley is on just 2pc. The party's inability to manage Mr Crowley's vote means it is not in contention for a second seat, despite matching Fine Gael.
Sinn Fein is poised to win its first European Parliament seats outside of Dublin in both Ireland MNW and Ireland South.
Fine Gael's performance in Ireland South, picking up a seat, will compensate for the loss of Mr Higgins.
Labour hopes of winning a seat will rest on delivering in Dublin.
Fianna Fail will be fighting to win seats in each constituency to avoid a backlash against Mr Martin.
How is Dublin expected to vote? Poll results only in tomorrow's Sunday Independent