Ireland South: Brian Crowley and Liadh Ni Riada looking solid but Labour unlikely to figure
FIANNA Fail's Euro political phenomenon, Brian Crowley, appears to be in a class all of his own as he faces into his fifth consecutive campaign.
The Fine Gael duo Deirdre Clune and Sean Kelly are neck and neck, meaning there is a Fine Gael seat – though it could go to either. Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada also looks set to win and the final seat could go to either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
The constituency comprises the six Munster counties and four Leinster counties, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Wicklow.
A Millward Brown/Irish Independent poll puts Brian Crowley on 36pc – essentially a quota and three quarters – and streets ahead of all other contenders. There are few secrets to his success – the wheelchair-bound MEP campaigns like a man possessed and works assiduously across the constituency through a network of local contacts.
But party teamwork at election time is not Crowley's strong suit and this poses a headache for his little-known FF running mate, Kieran Hartley of Waterford, who is on just 2pc. FF strategists will work on building Hartley in hopes that he might be "be towed home" by Crowley's extraordinary surplus.
Supporters of sitting FG MEP, Sean Kelly, will be quite disappointed at his 12pc showing. He is neck-and-neck right now with Senator Deirdre Clune of Cork city, who is a member of the Barry FG dynasty, and benefits from being in the major constituency population centre.
The destination of transfers from FG's third candidate, Simon Harris of Wicklow, who is currently on 7pc, could prove decisive. There is the prospect of both Kelly and Clune coming home after much counting on Sunday May 25. That would be an extraordinary result for the main party of government against a mid-term swing.
If that were to happen they would need transfers from everywhere – not least from FF's Crowley on the basis of Cork/Kerry geography.
Liadh Ni Riada of Sinn Fein – unknown to many across the nation just a few weeks ago – looks set to be one of the headline stories of this European Parliament contest.
This survey puts Ni Riada on 15pc – just five points shy of the quota.
By contrast the big disappointment of the South constituency is Labour's Phil Prendergast, who is on 4pc and most unlikely to figure in the race. Labour's fate here will not help ease Coalition nerves.