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Friday 19 September 2014

Euro poll a chance for Ireland to gain real clout, says Kenny

Published 29/04/2014 | 02:30

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Enda Kenny, back row, second from right, at the launch of Fine Gael’s European election campaign in Dublin, with the party’s six MEP candidates, clockwise from Taoiseach, Brian Hayes TD, Mairead McGuiness MEP, Jim Higgins MEP, Sean Kelly MEP, Simon Harris TD and Senator Deirdre Clune.

THE European Parliament now has real powers – making next month’s election the most important since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, according to the Taoiseach.

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Enda Kenny said voters must take account of Fine Gael’s alignment with the most powerful voting bloc in the European Parliament.

He said sending MEPs to join the European People’s Party (EPP) grouping would mean Ireland had “real clout” in the EU’s decision-making process.

The Taoiseach also brushed aside suggestions that current turmoil inside the Labour Party could jeopardise the Coalition.

He praised the Labour ministers for playing their part in making tough financial decisions required to successfully take Ireland out of the bailout.

Launching his party’s European election manifesto, Mr Kenny said the Lisbon Treaty, in force since 2009, meant MEPs now vote on most new EU laws.

This made it vital to choose good candidates with influential links to the parliament’s main grouping, the EPP.

The Fine Gael election document stresses efforts to enforce Ireland’s economic recovery with continued job creation, financial stability, and economic growth. It includes promises of a youth guarantee of training, education or jobs for under-25s and improved European Investment Bank lending for SMEs.

The EPP grouping, which held its summit meeting in Dublin last month, is the biggest in the EU with huge influence in all its institutions and in the major

European capitals. The group includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and holds 275 of the 751 seats in the Parliament.

Backlash

Ireland’s share of the seats has been reduced by one to 11 after the accession of Croatia as a new member state.

Despite this, and an anti-government backlash, Fine Gael strategists argue that they can retain their four seats.

Last weekend’s Irish Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll showed the party is set to take one seat each in the newly-configured South and Midlands-North-West constituencies with the possibility of a second seat in the South.

But the same survey also showed FG faces a big fight in three-seat Dublin to retain the seat held by Gay Mitchell from 2004 until his retirement.

Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes is shown in third place, but with doubts about his ability to attract transfers.

Mr Kenny declined to comment on these polls, but insisted Mr Hayes had shown his worth handling complex issues when standing in for Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

The poll also showed that in the expanded Midland-North-West constituency, outgoing MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins were neck and neck in their re-election bids.

In South, outgoing MEP Sean Kelly and Senator Deirdre Clune are deadlocked – with Simon Harris of Wicklow on 7pc.

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