Thursday 22 August 2019

John Downing: 'Dublin is 'group of death' in elections that will make Europe much more interesting'


The last-minute entry from Ms Daly has ensured the capital is clearly the 'group of death'. Photo: Tom Burke
The last-minute entry from Ms Daly has ensured the capital is clearly the 'group of death'. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

European elections have never caught the public imagination but strap yourself in because this time round we are in for a real contest.

The arrival of Clare Daly (Dublin), Mick Wallace (Ireland South) and Peter Casey (Midlands-North West) means every constituency has its own firebrand.

Among the 59 names on the various ballot papers there is also a collection of ex-ministers and sitting TDs whose reputations are on the line.

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And there are newcomers, most from the left-wing persuasion, who are hoping to make a name for themselves.

The last-minute entry from Ms Daly has ensured the capital is clearly the 'group of death'. Dublin was to gain an extra seat, meaning four MEPs would be elected, but one of those will now be put into 'cold storage' until Brexit happens.

Ms Daly lines up against former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald who will be desperate to hold the Fine Gael seat but also to acquire personal vindication in light of her controversial resignation from the Cabinet.

Until now, Fianna Fáil was confident that by putting ex-children's minister Barry Andrews forward it could regain a seat, but that is far from certain. And the only sitting MEP seeking re-election, Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan, will be looking over her shoulder at Ms Daly.

Add in the President's daughter, Senator Alice Mary Higgins (Ind) and ex-communications minister Alex White, who is running for the Labour Party, and you have a contest.

The constituencies outside of Dublin are more than a little on the crazy side because of their geography rather than their candidates.

Ms Daly appears better fixed that her Independents4Change colleague, Mick Wallace, who is running in Ireland South.

It's another constituency affected by the Brexit 'twist'. When the parties starting planning, they envisaged five seats but this is now back down to four.

Fine Gael needs to keep the two seats held by Seán Kelly and Deirdre Clune.

Technically Fianna Fáil has one seat but Brian Crowley wasn't operating under the party whip for the past five years.

Sitting Cork TD Billy Kelleher has been teamed up with Cllr Malcolm Byrne from Wexford, although early signs are they aren't working as much of a team.

Then there is Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada, who had an abysmal showing in the presidential election. Her overall vote is likely to be dented but the likelihood is that she'll survive.

While Dublin might be the best battleground, the best colour will come from Midlands-North West.

The arrival of Peter Casey into the race will have upset Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and sitting Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. The latter topped the poll this time but is very much the target of Casey, who got more than 300,000 first preference votes in last October's presidential election.

Mairead McGuinness should easily hold the Fine Gael seat, but bringing in her running mate, former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, will be a bridge too far.

Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy will feel threatened by Casey and also the fact that he openly admits he isn't definite about serving the five-year term. Carthy has eyes on the Dáil whenever a general election is called.

Fianna Fáil hopes to gain a seat here by running two TDs: Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte.

Overall seven TDs have fielded, many of them with a good chance of winning. By rule, they must resign from the Dáil when the Euro assembly convenes on July 2, and by-elections must be held within six months, taking us to early January.

Most people at Leinster House say you will have a general election before a clatter of by-elections.

Irish Independent

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