Thursday 20 June 2019

Ganley's pan-European dream lies in tatters

At 3am yesterday morning, a glum-looking Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan with Junior Education Minister Conor Lenihan consult the tallymen as the count for the third Dublin seat reaches its conclusion at the European vote centre in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: MARTIN NOLAN
At 3am yesterday morning, a glum-looking Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan with Junior Education Minister Conor Lenihan consult the tallymen as the count for the third Dublin seat reaches its conclusion at the European vote centre in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: MARTIN NOLAN

Declan Ganley's theory that 10,000 of his votes were wandering about in wheelie bins around the TF Royal Hotel in Castlebar encapsulated the Libertas result in the European elections.

Rubbish.

In fairness to Mr Ganley, he did perform stronger than the opinion polls suggested.

The antennae of the political parties on the ground, particularly Fianna Fail, certainly indicated he was going to figure in the shake up for the final seat.

But he was still a long way off getting elected.

Mr Ganley acquitted himself well in the final vote tally, but his credibility is damaged by his inability to get elected.

The gamble failed to pay off.

Across the European Union, his experiment of setting up a pan-European party to win up to 100 seats in European Parliament failed -- and failed miserably.

Mr Ganley talked a good talk, but didn't match up when it came to the crunch.

Conscious of his commitment not to lead his organisation's opposition to the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, he stood down from political activity last night.

He has left his mark.

Ultimately, the voters in the European elections did not vote along the lines of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Only one anti-Lisbon campaigner got elected -- Socialist Joe Higgins, in Dublin, who now becomes the de facto leader of the 'No' campaign in the autumn.

Aside from Mr Ganley losing out, Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and independent MEP Kathy Sinnott lost their seats.

Garret Fitzgerald's call for voters of parties supporting a 'Yes' vote to transfer to pro-Lisbon parties didn't give Eoin Ryan enough of a boost in Dublin and he lost, leaving Fianna Fail with no seat in the capital.

The Labour Party had a superb European election, rising from one to three seats. Pronsias de Rossa was deservedly returned to the European Parliament, but it was the performance in Ireland South and Ireland East that grabbed the spotlight.

When Alan Kelly held off Dick Spring's nephew Arthur to secure the Labour nomination last autumn, it appeared he didn't have a hope.

But Mr Kelly fought a superb campaign, coordinated well with the local organisation across Munster, but it was also well-resourced. Nessa Childers piggybacked on the Gilmore gale, Labour's policies and her family name.

Fine Gael's John-Paul Phelan didn't have the name recognition or the steam to divide the party vote enough with the poll-topping Mairead McGuinness.

Fine Gael's loss did not measure much on the scale, given the party's local elections gains and the crushing defeats of the government parties.

But the party did not reach the heights of five years ago and is down from five seats to four, so the European campaign must be regarded as somewhat of a failure.

Along with the local elections fallout, the Green Party will also have to take a serious look at its European election strategy.

The foolhardy run by Deirdre de Burca in Dublin, rather than in Ireland East where her political base is located, was proven to be totally misguided.

In terms of stupid electoral decisions, it will take some beating. She even failed to get enough votes to get her deposit back and her demand for a recheck of votes summed up the failure.

Her political opponents will be sure to point out her attachment to Dublin if she tries to become a TD for Wicklow again.

Dan Boyle didn't fare much better in Ireland South, despite his national profile.

Sinn Fein's European journey took a backward step with the loss of Ms McDonald's seat, although Toireasa Ferris did put in a creditable performance, marking her out as a future TD whenever her father stands down.

The danger from the 'Yes' camps perspective would be to assume the landscape has changed so much the referendum will be passed easily.

The public still needs to be convinced of the necessity to vote Yes to the referendum.

A 'No' vote would be a massive body blow for Taoiseach Brian Cowen -- from which it is difficult to see him survive.

The 'No' campaign will be aware of the potential to use the status of a defeat to press for a rejection of the referendum.

Before going near the electorate again, Mr Cowen must resolve the guarantees to be attached to the Lisbon Treaty, ahead of the second referendum.

From there, Mr Cowen, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and European Affairs Minister Dick Roche must embark on a communications programme with the public. Regardless of the election fallout, the Green Party need to pull their weight this time out as wel,l by getting its much vaunted membership to officially back a 'Yes' vote.

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Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore will both back a 'Yes' and would be advised just to run their own campaigns independently.

Unified calls for votes from otherwise warring parties tend to come across as phoney, so a concentration on their own supporters will be ample.

The emphasis across the board needs to be on the economic imperative of passing the referendum to ensure the country is not left on the margins of the EU.

The European elections are over, but Ireland's future interaction with the European Union still hangs in the balance.

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fsheahan@independent.ie

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