The Irish Mail on Sunday

Ming’s off to Brussels

Exit poll shows Labour could lose each of its three seats in Europe Labour ‘smacking’ stirs up threats of a radical reshuff le… and mutiny

- By Ferghal Blaney By John Lee

LABOUR is on course to lose all three European Parliament seats it holds to a surging Sinn Féin, while Luke ‘ Ming’ Flanagan is almost certain to clinch a seat in the Midlands-North West constituen­cy.

Counting in the three European constituen­cies of Dublin, Ireland South and MidlandsNo­rth West only begins today, but an early exit poll conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes for RTÉ gives a strong indication of who will win the 11 seats.

Labour’s catastroph­ic performanc­e in a string of recent opinion polls was reflected in the exit poll, which asked 3,000 voters which way they had voted. It predicts Labour is likely to win no seats, while Fine Gael should get four, Fianna Fáil two and independen­ts two. A re-emerging Green Party may gain one.

In Midlands-North West the poll shows rebel TD Mr Flanagan topping the poll with 20% of the vote. If reflected in the actual vote, it should be enough to get him elected.

Fine Gael’s Mairéad McGuinness is next with 16% – this puts her as the likely winner for Fine Gael in this constituen­cy, ahead of fellow sitting MEP and party colleague Jim Higgins.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy, a councillor from Carrickmac­ross in Monaghan, is next on 13%.

Both Fianna Fáil candidates Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher and Thomas Byrne come next on 11% and 10% respective­ly, which together should give Fianna Fáil enough votes for a seat. Vote management will be crucial here to make the most of the combined vote.

Independen­t MEP Marian Harkin is in the running to get the fourth seat with 11%.

In Dublin, Sinn Féin is topping the poll with Lynn Boylan on 24%, way ahead of the high-profile junior finance minister Brian Hayes and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who share joint second place on 14% each.

Close behind the two of them, and still in the running for the third seat, come Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatric­k on 12% and Independen­t MEP Nessa Childers on 11%.

Labour’s candidate, sitting MEP Emer Costello, comes in with a very disappoint­ing 8%, offering very little hope of Labour retaining the seat.

The phenomenon that is Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley will top the poll again in Ireland South with thousands of votes to spare. He is coming in at 26%, nine ahead of Sinn Féin on 17%. It looks certain to win a seat with Liadh Ní Riada.

Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly, Deirdre Clune and Simon Harris come next in that order, which means Fine Gael looks likely to win two of the

In Dublin, Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan tops poll

four Ireland South seats.

Speaking at the count centre in Citywest yesterday, Labour deputy A RADICAL reshuffle of Cabinet ministers and the dropping of a major figure are expected to be the Labour leadership’s reaction to its election trouncing.

Yet with a return of 7% in the local elections and the likely result of no European seats there were clear threats of a heave from the Joan Burton camp last night, with a less than ringing endorsemen­t of the leadership.

Eamon Gilmore has said his leadership is not an issue, but alrady two backbenche­rs, Michael McNamara and Arthur Spring, have spoken of a need to discuss it within the party.

Mr Gilmore is expected to radically recast his ministers to stem the revolt, with Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn looking most vulnerable.

However, in a desperate response to the catastroph­e, Mr Rabbitte spoke yesterday of renewing the Programme for Government.

Party sources said last night that the Communicat­ions Minister is himself likely to be a victim of a renewal of the smaller Government party.

An autumn Cabinet reshuffle is almost certain to see a move for Eamon Gilmore out of Foreign Affairs. There will be an effort to find an economic role for him but Phil Hogan’s position in Environmen­t, assuming he goes to the European Commission, is a possibilit­y. A number of senior Labour sources said a Labour minister could be dropped from the top table to make way for some younger talent.

Labour’s Junior Transport leader Joan Burton defended her party’s pending disaster in the European elections.

‘People worked very hard contributi­ng to their community. The electorate have given a different verdict, but I want to say to all our Labour party people around the country, to thank them for all the hard work they’ve done,’ she said.

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was in ebullient form, predicting large Sinn Féin gains: ‘I do anticipate that we will have doubled or maybe even tre- Minister Alan Kelly is being tipped for promotion to Cabinet.

And if Ms Burton can be brought back on side, she would expect a more senior Cabinet position, perhaps taking Mr Gilmore’s role in Foreign Affairs. But she is seen as having all the bargaining chips and still covets the Public Expenditur­e role held by Brendan Howlin.

Mr Rabbitte said yesterday that a change of leadership would not help and would not have helped Labour’s electoral results.

‘I don’t think if John the Baptist was leading this party it would have made a difference,’ he said.

‘Everybody wants this, that and the other… if we had the money to do all this, we never would have had a crisis in the first place.

‘The brunt of the backlash on the Government has been taken by Labour,’ he said.

The line that no other leader would have led the party to a better result was trotted out across the party.

‘There is no denying that it is a bad day for Labour,’ said junior minister Kathleen Lynch.

‘We need strong, secure and solid leadership and changing leader at this point won’t help.’

Meanwhile, Mr Howlin that voters were giving the Government a ‘smacking’ by favouring independen­ts. There will be considerab­le tension behind closed doors in Labour now. bled our number of councillor­s right across the State and we are in contention for each of the three European seats in each of the three constituen­cies,’ she said.

‘It seems that Lynn Boylan will very comfortabl­y take a European seat for us for Dublin.

‘If there’s a “take home” message for Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, it’s that a vast section of Irish society is simply eking out an existence, only getting by. People are simply at breaking point.’

 ??  ?? SOMBRE MOOD: Joan Burton with party candidate Lorraine Mulligan at the Dublin West count
SOMBRE MOOD: Joan Burton with party candidate Lorraine Mulligan at the Dublin West count
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