16 May 2009

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could lose MEP

Following yesterday's amazing national opinion poll (for details see yesterday's entry below), which gives Fine Gael a commanding lead over Fianna Fáil and lists Eamon Gilmore as the most popular party leader in Ireland, The Irish Times is turning the spotlight on the up-coming European elections.

In today's edition the paper publishes another TNS/MRBI poll, this time for the four European constituencies in Ireland, and the first one in this election campaign.
The big surprise is that - according to this poll - both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are apparently "in danger of losing one MEP" on June 5th.

The poll identifies the East constituency as the 'danger zone' for Fine Gael, while Fianna Fáil is in a tight fight with Sinn Féin in Dublin.

In the East, where the veteran MEP Avril Doyle is not standing for re-election, the second outgoing Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness (right) - who was Doyle's surprise running mate five years ago - is rated in the poll on 33% and thus well ahead of her fellow 'blueshirt' John Paul Phelan, who is on 9%.
Unless votes between the two Fine Gael candidates are split in a more equal ratio, the second Fine Gael seat in the East could be lost to the Labour Party's Nessa Childers, daughter of former President Erskine Childers (and until very recently a County Councillor for the Green Party). Fianna Fáil's MEP Liam Aylward is apparently on course to retain his seat.

In Dublin, Fine Gael's veteran MEP Gay Mitchell (left), who is probably the most pro-European politician in Ireland, and Labour's Pronsias de Rossa look at present quite safe. The third seat will be decided between Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Eoin Ryan of Fianna Fáil, who are both outgoing MEPs.
As Dublin is losing one of its previously four seats due to the overall down-sizing of the European Parliament, but all four outgoing MEPs are standing for re-election again, one will inevitably lose out.

In the South Fianna Fáil's outgoing MEP Brian Crowley (right), whose personal support clearly outranks that of his party, seems to be certain to return to Brussels and Strasbourg. Fine Gael is likely to win one seat as well, and at present it appears that former GAA President Seán Kelly, parachuted in as a 'celebrity' candidate, has the upper hand over his running mate, the outgoing Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke.
The third seat will be contested by sitting Independent MEP Kathy Sinnot and Toireasa Ferris (daughter of Kerry TD Martin Ferris) of Sinn Féin, with an outsider chance for the Labour Party's Alan Kelly.

The poll also suggests that two of the three seats in the North West would be taken by outgoing MEPs Jim Higgins (left) of Fine Gael and Marian Harkin (Independent), with the third seat going to Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher of Fianna Fáil, who is a former MEP and a sitting TD for Donegal South-West.

If this would indeed be the result on June 5th, it would be a set-back for Declan Ganley (right), the founder and leader of the new Pan-European party Libertas, who also stands as a candidate in the North-West and is confident to be elected.

About 500 people were polled by TNS-MRBI in each of the country's four European constituencies on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for what is the first European poll of the campaign.
Although it does show some clear trends already, I think that it is too early in the campaign to make serious predictions. But over the coming weeks there will be more opinion polls, all the way until June 5th, when we will have the one and only poll that really counts: the actual election.

The Emerald Islander

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