SF on course for Euro election victories but FG's Kelly faces defeat
Poll predicts Sinn Fein will take its first seats outside capital
SINN FEIN is on course to win its first European Parliament seats outside Dublin, according to an Irish Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.
Matt Carthy, a relatively unknown candidate, looks set to top the poll in the Midlands-North-West constituency, while another, Liadh Ni Riada, is a clear second in Ireland South.
The Kerryman lies behind the Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein candidates. But more worrying for him is that he is neck and neck with his Fine Gael running mate Deirdre Clune on 12pc – more than 6pc down on his tally in the 2009 election.
Fine Gael does have a fighting chance of holding on to three out of the eight available seats in the newly drawn constituencies that take in 25 counties.
However, the poll suggests that either Mairead McGuinness or Jim Higgins, who are both on 12pc in Midlands-North-West, will survive on May 23. The survey suggests it is unlikely that both sitting MEPs can come through.
The Sinn Fein rise has come largely at the expense of Labour, whose candidates are facing an election day wipe-out.
Fianna Fail will be pleased with the runaway performance of Brian Crowley (36pc) in Ireland South and Thomas Byrne (16pc) in Midlands-North-West.
But Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, who has served as either a TD or MEP since 1981, has only 9pc and is in danger of losing his seat.
And sitting independent MEP Marian Harkin is under threat from Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. Both are on 12pc in Midlands-North-West.
The poll was carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
The Sinn Fein poll-topper in Midlands-North-West, Matt Carthy, is on 17 pc. The quota is expected to be 20pc. He is an outgoing Monaghan county councillor with family links to Roscommon, and the RTE GAA commentator Brian Carthy is his uncle. Though not widely known nationally, he is a very polished media performer.
In the South constituency, SF's Liadh Ni Riada is placed second on 15pc, again close to the 20pc quota. She is the youngest daughter of the late traditional music icon Sean O Riada, and the party's Irish language officer living in the Gaeltacht area of Ballyvourney in west Cork.
Fianna Fail's poll-topper in the South, Brian Crowley, is on a whopping 36pc as he prepares to contest his fifth consecutive Euro election.
Party strategists will lament his running mate Kieran Hartley's poor showing of 2pc, but they will look hard at the prospect of a better vote-share strategy and the possibility of taking that second seat.
Otherwise, the final seat in the south looks like an internal Fine Gael battle with either Mr Kelly or Ms Clune, each on 12 pc, and even Simon Harris, of Wicklow, on 7pc is not out of the reckoning.
The bank reform candidate Diarmuid O'Flynn, a sports journalist, is also on 7pc.
Labour's biggest disappointment will be in the South with the very poor showing by outgoing MEP Phil Prendergast on 4pc leaving her out of the running. The party's Senator Lorraine Higgins in Midlands- North-West is in a similar position, but Labour had few expectations for this constituency.
The Labour showing will do nothing to ease internal coalition tensions – more so since Fine Gael are not as badly hit by the expected anti-government backlash. The findings will only add to speculation about the future of party leader Eamon Gilmore.
The findings could help ease pressure on Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. But he will look closely at a follow-on survey in tomorrow's Sunday Independent covering Dublin and the fate of the party's candidate there, Mary Fitzpatrick.
Other candidates will be disappointed with their showing in this first survey of the Euro campaigns. In South, debt support campaigner Jillian Godsill is on 3pc; Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan is on 1pc, and Jan van de Ven of Direct Democracy Ireland is on 1pc.
In Midlands-North-West, Independent Mark Fitzsimons and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen are each on 3pc. Mark Dearey of the Green Party is on 2pc while Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland is on 1pc.
In tomorrow's Sunday Independent: The Dublin count is in ... and in Monday's Irish Independent the poll special continues.