John Downing: Green shoots fail to take root in farming heartlands

Green party leader Eamon Ryan and Green Party MEP candidate Saoirse McHugh, at the Castlebar count centre for the Midlands-Northwest. McHugh polled well in the European elections but may lose out in the race for the final seat. Photo: Mark Condren
Green party leader Eamon Ryan and Green Party MEP candidate Saoirse McHugh, at the Castlebar count centre for the Midlands-Northwest. McHugh polled well in the European elections but may lose out in the race for the final seat. Photo: Mark Condren
John Downing

John Downing

Eyebrows were raised when it emerged that not a single farmer in Midlands-North-West admitted to voting for the Green Party Euro candidate, Saoirse McHugh from Achill island.

So, we drilled a little deeper into the RTÉ/TG4 exit poll around the weekend's local and European Parliament elections. The television stations had jobbed the survey company, Red C, to ask 3,230 voters at polling stations around the country.

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Looking at Ireland South Euro constituency, we again found that no farmer - not a one - owned up to voting for the Green Party candidate there, Senator Grace O'Sullivan from Waterford.

When we looked at the third constituency, the city and county of Dublin, things took a slightly absurd turn. We found that one in seven, or 15pc, of farmer voters there admitted backing the Green Party poll-topper, Ciarán Cuffe.

Dublin farmers is it? Are we talking window boxes or funny stuff under plastic and lights in the wardrobe?

Well, no. Those of us who get out and about know that a big chunk of north Dublin is still agricultural and its horticulture still helps feed the metropolitan population.

Another figure in the same table was a little more reassuring. It showed that Clare Daly, daughter of an army officer off the Curragh, whose background is as a trade union leader at Dublin Airport, also struck a chord with some Dublin farmers and got 22pc backing from them. Ms Daly appears to be a quintessentially urban politician. But then again her base is in north Dublin which is also the farming area.

Few surprises

The rest of the survey data relating to farmers contained few surprises. In Dublin, farmers gave 15pc apiece to Fianna Fáil standard bearer Barry Andrews, and Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald.

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In the South, the quintessential GAA man off a farm in Kilcummin, near Killarney, Seán Kelly of Fine Gael, had 26pc farmer support. Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fáil, also reared on a farm in Glanmire, near Cork city, got 14pc farmer backing, Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune, Cork city-based but solicitous of the farm vote, registered 14pc. Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne, from Gorey, got 11pc, and Independent Mick Wallace got 9pc.

We needed no survey to know that Mairead McGuinness, late of this Farming Independent parish and once again poll-topping MEP for Midlands-North-West, was the farmers' first choice with 51pc saying they voted for her. We were left demanding a full explanation from the other half of the farming voters.

Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy was next on 31pc farmer support and Independent Luke Ming Flanagan got 14pc. Perhaps emblematic of the election in that part of the world was a showing of just 6pc farmer support for Fianna Fáil's Brendan Smith of Cavan.

The likeable and talented former Agriculture Minister was clearly in the wrong race at the wrong time. Hopefully, he will have better days in politics.

Of course, these surveys generally come with a certain health warning. Again, we probably did not need polling to know about farmer antipathy towards the Green Party.

But the Greens are back - and they may well feature strongly in the next government.

Indo Farming


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