Monday 20 May 2019

Crowded field of 23 on EU ballot for Ireland South

Malcolm Byrne
Malcolm Byrne
Jan Van De Ven

Padraig Byrne

The local elections are the subject of discussion and debate throughout the county, but let's not forget we will be voting in another election as we head into the polling booths on May 24. The European elections take place on the same date and, with the spectre of Brexit still looming large, it's perhaps never been more important to ensure that Ireland's needs are serviced on a European scale.

From a Wexford point of view, there are three local candidates in the race. Gorey councillor Malcolm Byrne got the nod from Fianna Fáil early on, while independent TD Mick Wallace entered the race late on, handing in his nomination papers yesterday (Monday) morning. The other Wexford contender is Jan Van De Ven for Direct Democary Ireland, who has an address in Kilmuckridge. The trio are aiming to be Wexford's first MEP since Avril Doyle stepped aside in 2009. It would be fair to say that both Deputy Wallace and Cllr Byrne could attract a significant vote in their home county, but they will face stiff competition in the Ireland South constituency.

As is the case with a lot of things, Brexit is making the European elections a somewhat more complicated affair this time out. With Britain leaving the European Parliament, their seats will be redistributed among the rest of the member states. The result is that our constituency, Ireland South, will expand from four seats to five. However, the person who takes the fifth seat will go into 'cold storage' until such time as Brexit actually happens and Britain vacates it's seats in the European parliament.

For example should Cllr Byrne prove successful in the local elections, in which he is also standing in the Gorey District, and is fifth past the post in the European elections, then he will take his seat on the council until such time as Brexit happens and he can take his seat as an MEP.

Currently, the state of play is that on May 24, a total of 23 candidates will contest Ireland South looking to take one of the five seats. Of the four sitting MEPs, three - Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada (Cork) and Fine Gael's Seán Kelly (Kerry) and Deirdre Clune (Cork) - are seeking re-election. Fianna Fáil's Brian Crowley announced that he wouldn't be contesting this election back in January due to poor health.

The three sitting MEPs are all reasonably regular visitors to Wexford. Ms Ní Riada has taken a strong interest in fisheries in the county in the past and has met with fishermen in areas like Kilmore, while Ms Clune has previously met with farmers from across the county on a number of issues and Mr Kelly recently hosted a seminar on the effects of Brexit in Wexford town.

So far, the challengers consist of Cllr Byrne for Fianna Fáil, Independent TD Mick Wallace, Jan Van De Ven for DDI, Fine Gael TD Andrew Doyle (Wicklow), Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher (Cork), INTO General Secretary and Labour Party candidate Sheila Nunan (Wicklow), Green Party Senator Grace O'Sullivan (Waterford), People Before Profit's Adrienne Wallace (Carlow), parliamentary assistant Diarmuid Patrick O'Flynn (Cork), non party candidate and farmer Patrick Fitzgerald (Tipperary), tour operator Walter Ryan Purcell (Kerry), Peter O'Loughlin (Cork) for Identity Ireland, farmer Liam Minehan (Tipperary), homemaker Theresa Heaney (Cork), non-party Delores J Cahill (Tipperary), non-party scientist Maurice Joseph Sexton from (Cork), health therapist Breda Patricia Gardener (Kilkenny), project manager Allen J Brennan (Wicklow), non-party homemaker Colleen Worthington (Cork) and environmental educator Peter Madden (Tipperary).

In the last European elections in 2014, it was the outgoing Brian Crowley who was first past the post, taking 27.4% of the first preference votes. He was followed by Liadh Ní Riada (19.1%) who will surely be looking to capitalise on her increased public profile following her unsuccessful presidential election bid last year. The two Fine Gael candidates were next past the post, Sean Kelly with 12.7% of first preferences and Deirdre Clune with 7.2%. After the 12th count, Ms Clune just edged out a young up-and-comer by the name of Simon Harris, by a margin of just over 3,500 votes.

The last time we went to the polls for European elections, there were a total of fifteen candidates vying for your votes. This time out sees an increase with a total of 23. This combined with the local elections and a referendum could mean that voters will be spending a little time inside the polling booth.

Perhaps the shock of the race thus far was Mick Wallace declaring at the final hour alongside his Independents 4 Change colleague Clare Daly. While rumours had circulated in recent weeks, Deputy Wallace's office seemed firm that he was not focusing on Europe for the time being. Meanwhile, Jan Van De Ven, who is a resident of Kilmuckridge is contesting his second European campaign. The last time out he was resident in Co Wicklow, but he's hoping that he can fare better on this occasion.

The race for Europe is sure to take more twists and turns ahead of May 24, however, one thing is for certain. All of the candidates will be hoping that they can finish in the top four rather than waiting on the additional seat that will arise following Brexit.

Gorey Guardian