Sinn Fein upbeat as established parties brace for backlash
ALL the established parties, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail, are playing down expectations ahead of a feared difficult outcome to today's local and European elections.
But by contrast Sinn Fein and Independents are getting ready for an expected record vote haul in what promises to be a second big shift in voting patterns inside three years.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was exultant on social media earlier this week with her message: "For years we rallied to the slogan: tiocfaidh ar la. Did you really think our day would never come? #Winning."
Fine Gael is hoping that a lucky outcome from the European Parliament vote, which could see the party returning up to four MEPs, a by-election win in Longford-Westmeath and a good showing in the Dublin West by-election, will help mask a very difficult outcome in nationwide council elections. The party is also relying on councillors surviving long counts in large new electoral areas of up to nine seats, and a good performance by some well-chosen newcomers.
Labour has already resigned itself to a very bad election – and the party now pins its hopes on not being a total wipe-out. Organisers said they will continue their canvass for Dublin European Parliament hopeful Emer Costello right up to close of polls tonight.
Fianna Fail has also been busy modifying expectations. The party will be basing all comparisons on the February 2011 meltdown which saw them on 17pc – and returns of up anything in the mid-20pc zone will be claimed "as progress in a tough election".
But it is likely that there will be questions asked about the future of the leaders of Fianna Fail and Labour from next week onwards.
Mr Martin moved to scotch speculation about a possible leadership challenge if the party's Local and European election results are disappointing.
The Fianna Fail leader dismissed negative polls and insisted that FF was facing into its most positive Local Government election campaign for years.
He stressed that he will remain leader into the next General Election.
By far the biggest winners tomorrow will be the independent candidates who have nationwide support of about a quarter of voters. Prominent independent TDs, like Dublin North Central's Finian McGrath and Kildare North's Catherine Murphy, will work to associate themselves with these victories.
Sinn Fein strategists are pleased that a slew of opinion polls show them on twice their 11 pc vote share in the February 2011 general election which saw them return 14 TDs.
Today they hope to elect three Euro MEPs and councillors in virtually every corner of the country but activists acknowledge the challenge will be to get the vote out.