Saturday 25 October 2014

Burton rules out election bid for Panti Bliss

Concern over party wipeout at poll

Published 16/02/2014 | 02:30

Panti Bliss, inset, Joan Burton

LABOUR Party figures weighed up trying to run gay rights campaigner and drag queen, Panti Bliss, as a European election candidate, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

Concerns within Labour about the performance of the party's low-profile European MEP Emer Costello led to talk of a possible approach to Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, being canvassed in certain party circles last week.

But the proposal was sharply rebuffed by the party's director of elections Joan Burton yesterday.

"I doubt it very much, I'd be very surprised," she said.

"Emer Costello is a very dogged and focused candidate, she could well be another Bernie Malone. Labour's view is there are two left-wing seats in Dublin, we are targeting one," she added.

However, concern is growing within Labour the party is facing a European election wipeout at the hands of its deadly political enemies, SF.

In the European elections of 2009, the securing of three seats by Labour sent out the first signal that it was poised to secure second-party status in the following general election.

However, as a series of internal polls across the parties show Sinn Fein is poised to win seats in the North and South constituencies, Labour also realises it faces a dire struggle to retain its seat in the 'Stalingrad' of Dublin.

The party's chances have substantially deteriorated in the wake of the declaration by the former Labour MEP Nessa Childers that she will contest the Dublin constituency in her capacity as an Independent.

Amidst claims Ms Childers is showing up well in the volatile pre-election polls, the party's situation in Dublin was summarised by one top-level figure, who warned: "Forget Stalingrad; we are more like the Unionists in Drumcree, here we stand, we can do no other."

A series of cross-party polls have revealed, though, that Ms Costello is locked in a grim battle for survival with the Sinn Fein candidate Lynn Boylan, the Socialist Independent Brid Smith and the Green leader Eamon Ryan, who is polling surprisingly well.

One minister told the Sunday Independent: "I am not surprised by the showing of Eamon Ryan. There is a sympathy factor out there and he has positioned himself well on a number of issues."

However, Mr Ryan's chances have also been seriously damaged by the arrival into the political fray in Dublin of Ms Childers.

Significantly, Ms Childers has already secured the support of two rebel Labour TDs Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty.

"Though I respect Emer Costello, Nessa Childers and I have worked on presentations on alternative economic policies. I will be very supportive of her candidacy," Mr Broughan told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Nulty, meanwhile, also said he will be fully supportive of Ms Childers.

"There is a left-wing vote waiting to cast a verdict on Labour in government and Ms Childers may provide it with a voice," he said.

JOHN DRENNAN

Sunday Independent

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