Tuesday 12 December 2017

Midlands-North-West: SF likely to top poll as FG duo slug it out for spot in monster four-seater

Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

FIANNA Fail Senator Thomas Byrne could be one of the surprises of this European campaign in the monster 15-county Midlands-North-West constituency.

There is also the intriguing prospect of a struggle within Fine Gael between sitting MEPs Jim Higgins and Mairead McGuinness with the likelihood that one will lose out. Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy looks a certain poll-topper while the final seat could be a tussle between independents, the outgoing MEP Marian Harkin and Luke Ming Flanagan with each on 12pc.

Four-seat Midlands-North-West comprises the five Connacht counties, the three Ulster counties south of the border, and seven counties in mid and north Leinster.

But the aforementioned Sinn Fein's Cllr Matt Carthy of Monaghan, with family links to Roscommon, has 17pc in the Millward Brown survey – just three points short of the quota.

FF's Thomas Byrne is on 16pc – apparently benefitting from the bigger population in the east. The sitting FF MEP, Pat The Cope Gallagher of Donegal, first elected to Europe in 1994, is trailing on 9pc.

Supporters of Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness, based in Louth, may be disappointed to find her on 11pc, the same showing as her party rival, Jim Higgins of Mayo.

The contest is shaping up to mirror 2004 when Ms McGuinness faced off against Avril Doyle of Wexford in the former East constituency. But this time it appears less likely both FG candidates can come through. Of the pair, McGuinness seems the more transfer-friendly. But Jim Higgins has come through many and varied electoral battles also.

Labour's Senator Lorraine Higgins, based in east Galway, is out of the reckoning with just 4pc of the vote. But these counties have always been difficult terrain for Labour.

Independent TD for Roscommon, Luke Ming Flanagan, will surprise some by showing on 12pc. It puts him firmly in the hunt. Ultimately Flanagan might be fighting it out with Marian Harkin, who is based in Sligo and an MEP since 2004, and this survey suggests she is more transfer-friendly.

Independents Senator Ronan Mullen (3 pc), Mark Fitzsimons (3pc), the Green Party's Mark Dearey (2 pc) and Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland (1pc), will campaign to make a better showing. But the destination of their transfers may ultimately be of greater interest in this contest.

In summary, as this campaign hots up, it looks to be Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy, Fianna Fail's Thomas Byrne, a Fine Gael seat between Ms McGuinness and Mr Higgins, and a choice between independents Ms Harkin and Mr Flanagan.

Irish Independent

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