The Irish Mail on Sunday
ELECTION SPECIAL 2014
Adams’s party makes huge gains in local and European elections to become the Main Opposition – heralding new era in Irish politics
Coalition rocked Sinn Féin surge ahead +++ Labour gets a thumping +++ FG weakened +++ Gilmore under threat +++ Boost for independents
What could emerge is a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin
THE astonishing rise of Sinn Féin and a drubbing for the Government parties in Election 2014 signalled a seismic shift in the Irish political landscape last night.
Sinn Féin gained more than 6% on its 2011 General Election result, sweeping up seats across the local authorities nationwide. Despite Gerry Adams being questioned in connection with the murder of Jean McConville during the election campaign, the Party also looked like taking two MEP seats.
The Labour Party could face a leadership contest after being decimated in the local elections and looking certain to lose all its three European seats. Eamon Gilmore faces an evaluation of his leadership after the party’s share of the national vote fell from 19% in the last General Election to 7% in the locals and just 6% in the Europeans.
The Government will now be racked by the uncertainty that comes with a withdrawal of public support, and the weakening of the Tánaiste’s position will inevitably lead to further instability.
Such disarray and uncertainty means senior figures in both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are now talking about what they see as inevitable – a future coalition that will keep back the Sinn Féin tide.
‘It would be irresponsible to
run for the ditches’
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar admitted it had been a ‘difficult’ election for Fine Gael and it outlined the stark new political reality.
‘What could potentially emerge from these elections is a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin to lead the next government,’ he said.
‘There is now going to have to be more focus on how credible the alternatives offered by Sinn Féin and others are.’
What Mr Varadkar did not point out was that Fine Gael, the party of law and order, could never go into Government with Sinn Féin and Labour look to be eliminated as a force.
The Government’s immediate task is to get through another Budget of €2bn cuts, which, with a Labour Party worrying about its political existence will prove a mammoth challenge.
Many senior figures in Fine Gael and Labour were last night casting doubt on the ability of the Government to see out its term to 2016.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin looked like being the largest party on Dublin City Council and made sweeping gains in Galway, Kerry and Tipperary where it did not previously have a significant presence.
This means the established parties are now facing a new reality where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are at an all but equal level on local authorities at around 22%, and Sinn Féin are the third biggest at around 17%.
As for Labour, while Joan Burton refused to rule out a heave against Mr Gilmore early yesterday she said later on: ‘I think the issues are far wider than one person ... Eamon Gilmore is the elected leader of the Labour Party and of course I have confidence in him – but it’s much wider than that.’
She said it was ‘ a very direct endorsement’ in Mr Gilmore but that ‘we’re still in the middle of the count’ and that, ‘in the words of Barack Obama’, the Labour Party had ‘taken a shellacking’.
Mr Gilmore said there is no question about his leadership of the party following the poor election result.
However, Kerry North TD Arthur Spring, a nephew of former Labour leader Dick Spring, raised questions about the party’s future direction.
‘It would be irresponsible for us to run into the ditches and leave government,’ he said. ‘We have to ask ourselves do we need a new leader? It’s certainly something we need to look at.’
Later Mr Spring told the MoS: ‘There is a need for a discussion about several elements about how the party is organised and how it goes forward. So up for re-evaluation is whether we continue in Government, whether or not we have the appropriate leader and whether we have a Cabinet reshuffle or a change of personnel completely.’
Clare TD Michael McNamara told Clare fm: ‘The results call a lot into question in the Labour party, our continuation in Government.
‘I think Eamon Gilmore is going to have to prove his mettle now. It does clearly call his leadership into question… but we have five ministers at Cabinet, each and every one of them have to take responsibility for this.’
Some tough conversations are due in Fine Gael also. While the late Nicky McFadden’s sister retained the party’s seat in the Longford-Westmeath by-election, their candidate in Dublin West, the former world cham-
pion athlete Eamonn Coghlan, trailed in a miserable fifth. He was personally selected by Enda Kenny for the by-election but was eliminated on an early count.
Combined with substantial local election losses this was not a good campaign for the Taoiseach.
Early indications last night were that Fine Gael’s 36% support in 2011 fell to around 24% in the local elections, leading to significant seat losses on local councils. However it’s estimated 22% in the European contests looks like giving it four MEP seats.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was pleased with the party’s projected increase of its share from the disastrous
We have to ask do we need a new leader, do we reshuffle?
17% of 2011 to around 22%. Fianna Fáil could still be the largest party on local authorities.
With a number of young women elected in the capital Mr Martin could arguably claim a successful election outcome.
However, John McGuinness, the high profile chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said there was need for a ‘new direction’. At 28%, the largest share of the vote went to a wide variety of Independents, throwing the political landscape into further disarray.
And Luke Ming Flanagan pulled off a stunning result in the Midlands-North-West European constituency with more than 20% of the vote and a certain seat.
Counting will not begin on the European elections until this morning but thanks to an RTÉ exit poll and early tallies predicTions can be made.
Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan looks like topping the poll in the Dublin constituency and Liadh Ní Riada will take a seat in Ireland South.
In Ireland South Brian Crowley (FF) will be easily elected and Fine Gael should take two seats from its three candidates Seán Kelly, Deirdre Clune and Simon Harris.