Dan Boyle: Europe Europa


From top: Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes (centre), who is leaving politics, canvassing in the 2014 European Elections; Dan Boyle

There probably won’t be a general election this year. There would need to be some clarity on Brexit, along with a belief in Fianna Fáil that it can advance in some way. Neither are likely, but if they were to come to pass, an election could take place in September/October.

A decision to hold a general election will be informed by the definite holding of local and European elections in June. Mid term elections are usually not good news for a party in government. Voters are more likely to use these elections to give parties in government a good kicking.

The European elections are those in which independents and smaller parties can make hay. There are three independent MEPs currently representing Ireland, four if you include Brian Crowley (currently in exile from Fianna Fáil).

There is also a strong tradition of electing independents – TJ Maher, Pat Cox, Dana and Kathy Sinnott, all of whom sought to present themselves, in varying degrees, as something apart from traditional politics.

Similar voter volatility has benefited smaller parties from The Worker’s Party winning a seat in 1989; through Joe Higgins winning a seat for the Socialist Party; to the Greens electing two MEPs in successive elections (1994/99).

Sinn Féin made its big impact in 2014 winning three seats, although Mary Lou McDonald had earlier served as a single term MEP.

This time it is difficult to predict what might happen, there are so many variables at play. In the Dublin euro-constituency there is an additional fourth seat to be contested.

Two of the outgoing MEPs will not be standing again. These two, Brian Hayes and Nessa Childers had won the second and third seats on a margin of one third of one per cent, with Eamon Ryan narrowly missing out.

Lynn Boylan for Sinn Féin will likely be re-elected, albeit on a smaller vote. The other three seats could go anywhere.

Senator Neale Richmond is likely to seek selection for the seat held by Brian Hayes. He has received a great deal of media attention as a Brexit spokesperson, although he is unlikely to improve the vote Brian Hayes got last time, a vote that was barely enough then.

Conor Lenihan is seeking a nomination to be the Fianna Fáil candidate. He certainly has a profile, even if in Dublin the FF vote remains its weakest in the country.

These two, if and when selected, would be fighting it out with Ciarán Cuffe of The Greens, Alex White of Labour and Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats, for those final three seats.

The situation seems more clear cut in the Midlands/North West euro-constituency. Matt Carthy should be re-elected for Sinn Féin, although he may suffer from an impression that he may not serve a full term, as he much prefers the prospect of becoming a TD for Cavan/Monaghan.

Mairead McGuinness will I suspect top the poll. Only one of two current independent MEPs Marian Harkin and Luke Flanagan is likely to get elected, with Harkin being in the stronger position.

A dual threat exists for Flanagan – Fianna Fáil with the right candidate will be in the frame for a seat in the region where the party picks up its strongest vote.

Should he choose to run Peter Casey, with sufficient momentum from the presidential election, would amass enough votes to be elected, unfortunately.

In the Ireland South euro-constituency, now with an added fifth seat, Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly should be re-elected. Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada has had her name recognition enhanced after a far from successful presidential campaign.

Fianna Fáil’s leader Micheál Martin has given his imprimatur to Malcolm Byrne from Wexford. Malcolm and I worked together in the National Youth Council of Ireland. He has a capacity to be a very effective MEP.

What may hinder his prospects are the plans of outgoing MEP Brian Crowley, perhaps the greatest vote gatherer in Irish politics, on whether he will seek to defend the seat he holds. He is unlikely to be given a FF nomination having had the whip removed in 2014.

Even if he were to run as an independent candidate he would face uncomfortable questions on why he wants to extend his mandate, given that due to illness he has not attended a single session of the European Parliament since 2014.

Deirdre Clune‘s ability to retain a second Fine Gael will depend on how the party manages its vote. Labour doesn’t seem to have identified a strong candidate here. This opens the door for the Greens, with Grace O’Sullivan who looks set to add upon what had been a substantial vote in 2014.

These votes will not be replicated in a general election, but they will be analysed to see where the next slippage in our traditional voting patterns occur.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


22 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Europe Europa

      1. millie st murderlark

        Or you know maybe just an article that we can all understand? Punctuation is necessary when expressing yourself.

          1. millie st murderlark

            It must. It absolutely must.

            The march is being held on Saturday and we meet at the Spire. Bring your pedantic hat.

          1. Dan Boyle

            Is it that you can’t understand it, or you suspect others can’t? If it’s the latter that would explain the pedantry. You seem to value punctuation more than words being used in their proper context?

          2. millie st murderlark

            I just love punctuation, Dan. And as you can see, I’m busy championing a march for pedantry.

            I don’t think it’s completely incoherent, really. I just love the Oxford comma.

          3. Starina

            All I’m saying is your point(s) would get across much better if your piece was easier to read. If the reader to stop and reread sentences, their interest is going to wane very quickly. It’s journalism 101.

  1. Eoin

    “Only one on two current independent MEPs Marian Harkin and Luke Flanagan is likely to get elected, with Harkin being in the stronger position.” says Dan

    Yet, Ming got 124,000 first pref votes in 2014 which was just short of the quota, and he got elected on the second count.

    Harkin got just 69,000 votes and was lucky to be elected on the eighth count (Pat the Cope was less than 300 votes behind her in the end).

    Since 2014, Ming has a far higher local and national profile than Harkin.

    And how could Dan fail to mention the political colossus that is Mary Mitchel O’Connor who must surely be FG’s best hope in Dublin. She really embodies the true essence of FGness.

    Who will the Greens be running in Ireland South?

  2. Clampers Outside !

    “Mid term elections are usually not good news for a party in government. Voters are more likely to use these elections to give parties in government a good kicking.”

    Surely there is a site with performance stats on this… anyone?

  3. LeopoldGloom

    Lots of these candidates have failed in other elections and are just career politicians. What would Gannon be looking to achieve, a career local level politician, by going to Europe? either his interests are in his constituency and their wider needs, or they are not.

    Not just to pick on him, but it’s what they are all at. And they’d all jump ship for a different gig when the time suits them.

    1. Dan Boyle

      That’s a bit unfair. Elections are often contested more out of hope than confidence. The objectives, in the first instance, are to improve name recognition and to increase levels of voter support. Elections themselves are a platform, as much as elected office is.

  4. Eoin

    Can’t wait for the Irexit campaign to start growing rapidly once the Brits leave with no deal and Brussels is forced to punish them in any way they can in order to make leaving the EU look like a bad idea. Which will mean hard times here as we will have a hard time making deals with Britain due to Brussels interfering. We’ll be used as a stick to beat Britain but we’ll get the brunt of it.

    1. Starina

      They can’t make us do anything like that. We’ve benefited hugely from the EU so stop with that nationalist nonsense.

      1. Termagant

        Anything like what? We won’t be doing anything except suffering, and in our suffering presenting a tragedy that Brussels can point at and say “look, look what those terrible brits have done to poor little Ireland with their leaving”. If the EU gave a buppy about us they’d be making any concessions necessary to get a deal on the table with the UK in the single market so that our economy won’t be shattered almost as badly as the UK’s will be if they crash out.

  5. Gabby

    Ireland’s European constituency boundaries don’t make regional sense and are based mainly on mathematical rearrangement of raw statistics.
    On grammatical pedantry, Dan, the word ‘neither’ should be followed by a singular verb i.e. “Neither are likely, but if they were to come to pass…” should be written: Neither is likely, but…etc. You may have learned good Latin and Philosophy from the Jesuits, but l’Anglais se tremble un petit peu en face de la grammaire.

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