Wednesday 26 June 2019

FG tactics in turmoil as Labour poised to steal seat

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Fine Gael's plan to hold on to their two MEPs in Leinster has backfired spectacularly -- with Labour poised to win a seat in the European elections.

But the prospect of Fianna Fail being left without a European Parliament representative in Dublin is looming larger, with Eoin Ryan now lagging in a three-way fight for the last seat in the capital.

Despite all the debate being focused on Mr Ryan and Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald over the past fortnight, their support has actually fallen off.

Former Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins is now in contention to overtake both of the sitting MEPs, as he has drawn level with Mr Ryan on 9pc.

Ms McDonald remains in third place on 11pc.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, on 28pc, and Labour's Proinsias De Rossa, on 25pc, have gone further ahead of their rivals for the first two seats. But Fine Gael seems likely to lose a seat in the Ireland East constituency and only has an outside shot of a win in Ireland South.

The party's strategy of personally attacking Labour's Nessa Childers and attempting to control the runaway vote of poll-topping MEP Mairead McGuinness has failed.

Her running mate in Ireland East, John-Paul Phelan, is falling off the pace completely, at 7pc. The old Leinster constituency now looks set to be a gain for Eamon Gilmore's Labour -- at Fine Gael's expense.

Failure

Ms McGuinness admitted this week that it would be a failure if the party didn't retain the two seats it won against the odds five years ago when she was elected with Avril Doyle.

In an bid to haul back the advantage of Ms Childers, Ms Doyle attacked the Labour candidate's credentials, branding her a "Foxrock girl".

But it hasn't worked, as Ms Childers' support has increased to 21pc at the expense of her Fine Gael rivals. Ms McGuinness is down to 29pc and Fianna Fail's Liam Aylward also seems comfortable on 20pc.

Fianna Fail's Brian Crowley is again poised to be the country's biggest European vote-getter with his lead in Ireland South increasing to 30pc.

Former GAA president Sean Kelly is also expected to be elected on 16pc.

Independent MEP Kathy Sinnott has swapped places with Labour's Alan Kelly in the chase for the third seat. But on 14pc, Ms Sinnott is by no means safe, with Mr Kelly on 12pc, Fine Gael's Colm Burke on 10pc and Sinn Fein's Toireasa Ferris also on 10pc still in the hunt for the last seat.

In Ireland North-West, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and independent MEP Marian Harkin are all in line to retain their seats. Fianna Fail TD Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher remains in the front on 20pc, followed by Ms Harkin on 19pc and Fine Gael's Jim Higgins on 17pc.

Fine Gael's vote management is working in this part of the country as the party's second candidate Joe O'Reilly has gained at his running mates expense to move up to 10pc. Declan Ganley, of Libertas, remains stagnant on 10pc and Sinn Fein's Padraig MacLochlainn on 9pc.

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