Monday 22 December 2014

Running mates at odds over Euro boundary change

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 25/04/2014 | 02:30

Fianna Fail battle lines
Fianna Fail battle lines
Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fail's Euro candidates in the Midlands-North West constituency have openly clashed over the ability of voters to get to grips with the latest boundary changes.

Senator Thomas Byrne was contradicted by his running mate – the MEP Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher – after he claimed that voters were "confused" over what constituency they were based in.

Meath-based Mr Byrne yesterday called on Environment Minister Phil Hogan to launch a publicity drive to ensure that voters were aware of the boundary changes, which transformed Midlands-North West into a 15-county constituency.

"I am concerned at the number of people I have met on my campaign that seem confused about which European constituency they are now in and which candidates they can vote for," Mr Byrne said.

"The last Boundary Commission Report resulted in massive shifts of population and moved entire counties into new European constituencies and these have never been properly publicised or explained to voters."

But in what is being viewed as a clear rebuke to his running mate, Donegal-based Mr Gallagher said he "totally disagrees" that voters were confused.

"The constituents are intelligent and discerning.

"I reject completely this suggestion that some people don't know who they are voting for because of the changes.

"I don't think that's fair on voters at all."

The disagreement between the pair comes amid simmering tensions between their two campaign teams.

Mr Gallagher, who is a party veteran, is expected to comfortably take one of the four seats in the large constituency.

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Mr Byrne had agreed to run in the elections after being convinced by party headquarters that he had a solid chance of taking a second seat for Fianna Fail.

"He was sold a pup, he's a very hard working and prominent senator but Ireland Mid-West is so vast that there just doesn't seem to be the votes for two candidates," a source explained.

The Irish Independent has learned that both teams have clashed on dividing up the constituency, while there was also major differences on whether to run a joint postering campaign.

These issues have also been reported between candidates of other parties who are trying to get to grips with the significant boundary changes rolled out last year.

The changes, which were recommended by an independent electoral commission, reduced the number of European Parliament constituencies in Ireland from four to three.

This has led to two sprawling constituencies, Ireland South and Mr Gallagher and Mr Byrne's constituency of Midlands-North West.

Irish Independent

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