Thursday 22 March 2018

Fianna Fail won't pick favourites in important battle

Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher
Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher
Senator Thomas Byrne

John Downing Political Correspondent

FIANNA Fail's two contenders in the Midlands-North-West Euro constituency will battle alone to the last – despite warnings that they could both end up as losers due to all-out competition.

Party strategists have ruled out any last-minute strategic efforts to favour one or the other candidate. The party is making a standard final appeal to its core supporters across the 15-county constituency, which straddles Connacht, Ulster and Leinster, to vote one and two for the party candidate of their choice.

FF's Senator Thomas Byrne has brushed aside suggestions that both himself and party rival, outgoing MEP Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, risk dragging each other down as a number of opinion polls estimate they will have up to half a quota each.

"I believe there is a seat for Fianna Fail and I'm trying to win it. So, I'm going to keep on campaigning right up to the close of polling booths and I don't accept these predictions of loss for the party," Senator Byrne told the Irish Independent.

"I will continue to ask for a No 1 for myself and No 2 for Pat 'The Cope'," he added during his canvass in Co Louth.

A Millward Brown opinion poll for the Irish Independent last weekend put Mr Gallagher on 10pc, with Mr Byrne on 9pc, while the quota is expected to be 20pc. Other opinion polls have given similar estimates though placing Mr Gallagher slightly further ahead of Mr Byrne.

FF strategists say that from the start they realistically estimated that there was only one seat for them on this occasion in this four-seat constituency and no effort was made to divide the vast area for canvass purposes.

Mr Gallagher, who was first elected to the European Parliament in 1994, is based in Donegal while Mr Byrne is in Meath and each is an experienced politician who has put in a strong campaign.

Mr Byrne also pledged to fight if elected to amend EU laws on post office services to help in the battle to keep a post office network open across the country.

"Under the existing EU rules, member governments are obliged to maintain a nationwide system of postal collection and delivery.

"I believe this could be amended to extend that obligation to a post office network," he said. The former Meath East TD, who has been in the Seanad since 2011, said that until recent times there was "an unhealthy consensus" in Irish politics that "Europe was a good thing".

"In more recent years that has been contested with suggestions that Europe has been bad at times for Ireland.

"I take a middle course and believe we should challenge each issue on its merits. For instance, recent cuts in EU farm and regional budgets, to the detriment of countries like Ireland, should have been more strongly contested," he said.

* Our Longford-Westmeath by-election constituency report wrongly named Seamus Butler as canvassing in Ballymahon, Co Longford, with Fianna Fail candidate, Aengus O'Rourke.

We accept that Seamus Butler, an FF candidate for Longford County Council, was canvassing in Longford town on his own behalf on the day in question.

Irish Independent

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