Thursday 23 May 2019

European Elections Midlands North West: What's the key to taking a seat in the sprawling constituency?

 

Butcher Tony Grey with local Fine Gael candidate Peter Farrelly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and MEP Mairead McGuinness in Kells. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Butcher Tony Grey with local Fine Gael candidate Peter Farrelly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and MEP Mairead McGuinness in Kells. Photo: Gerry Mooney
John Downing

John Downing

Detailing the Midlands North West constituency:

TERRAIN:

This is a monster constituency going from Athy in south Co Kildare to Malin Head in Co Donegal, and from Clifden in Co Galway to the Cooley Mountains in Co Louth. 

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It covers half the nation's territory, spanning the five Connacht counties, the three Ulster counties in the Republic, and the mid and north Leinster counties of Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Louth.

BIG NAMES:

In such a diverse constituency, name recognition is vital.

The harsh reality is that many of the 17 contenders are unknown, and will remain so after the count on May 25.

Last time in 2014, Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, also a former TD, topped the poll with 124,000 votes.

He has a huge social media presence and is the best-known candidate.

Critics say contact with his base has weakened but he still should win.

Flanagan supporters will not be pleased by the candidature of Donegal-based Independent Peter Casey.

The idiosyncratic businessman won almost one in four votes in the October 2018 presidential election and is a consummate self-publicist.

Rivals say he got "a protest vote" last time and did not have to reckon with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil candidates in the field. But Casey is one to watch.

All contestants will benefit from the retirement of Independent Marian Harkin of Sligo, who served with distinction for 15 years.

The key Independent contenders will be especially pleased by her withdrawal.

FINE GAEL:

Similarly, Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness has huge recognition in the constituency, nationally and internationally, having been a very effective advocate for Ireland on Brexit.

Opinion polls predict she will head the vote and win for a fourth time.

Her party running-mate is 2014 Rose of Tralee and Army reserve crackshot Maria Walsh, who is showing well in polls. The pair had a celebrated public spat over canvassing territory and it is likely McGuinnness's huge personal vote will not transfer enough for Walsh to win a second seat for the party.

SINN FÉIN:

Outgoing MEP Matt Carthy, based in Monaghan, has impressed and worked hard on farm, Border and Brexit issues.

But rivals say he is more interested in succeeding Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin as Cavan-Monaghan TD. He has already been nominated by the party for that position when the next general election comes around.

But he should hang in for this one.

FIANNA FÁIL:

Last time out, a poor strategic divide meant Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher lost here.

But the party is again running two candidates, Cavan-based former agriculture minister Brendan Smith, and Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte.

A recent opinion poll put Smith ahead of Rabbitte and again there are tensions about canvass divides.

There is a fear that once again the two candidates could end up dragging each other down.

But there is a strong conviction that there is a Fianna Fáil seat, most probably for Brendan Smith.

Constituency profile - Midlands North West: The candidates

Cyril Brennan (People Before Profit); Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin); Peter Casey (Independent); Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (Independent); Patrick Greene (Direct Democracy Ireland); Dominic Hannigan (Labour); Fidelma Healy Eames (Independent); Dilip Malahatra (Independent); Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael); Saoirse McHugh (Green Party); James Miller (Independent); Diarmaid Mulcahy (Independent); Olive O'Connor (Independent); Michael O'Dowd (Renua Ireland); Anne Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil); Brendan Smith (Fianna Fáil); Maria Walsh (Fine Gael).

PREDICTION: Mairead McGuinness of Fine Gael will head the poll. Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin) and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (Independent) look set fair. The fourth seat will be a big battle between Fianna Fáil, most likely Brendan Smith, and Independent Peter Casey.

Irish Independent

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