On Friday week (24th of May) the people will go to the polls in the European and local elections in what will be the first major test of the Government since they took office.
On the 14th of June 2017, Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach. It will be very interesting to see what the verdict of the public will be. The European elections will give a reasonable idea of how the public are feeling after two years of this current Government.
There are mixed signals in the Irish economy. On one hand there is plenty of employment, and wages are growing at a modest rate. However, there are a number of huge problems, not least the chronic housing situation, homelessness, unaffordable rents and the fact that in the larger urban areas, young couples simply cannot afford to get on the property ladder.
Fine Gael’s traditional strong support among the farming community is also under the spotlight as many farmers are disillusioned at poor prices and dwindling incomes. The massive overruns in spending on major infrastructural projects like the Children’s Hospital and The National Broadband Plan have led to accusations of financial recklessness.
But despite all those problems, and the fact that Leo Varadkar is prone to shooting his mouth off from time to time – something that gets him into bother – it looks like Fine Gael will probably hold on to their national vote of about 30%.
Fianna Fáil are in a very difficult position. They can claim that they are ‘acting in the national interest’ by propping up the current Government, and while they have been very critical of some Government policy, the bottom line is that they are keeping them in power. They are caught talking out of the two sides of their mouth all the time.
They have some strong candidates running in the Euro elections and will be in with a chance of taking the final seat in this Euro constituency, that’s assuming that Mairead McGuinness, ‘Ming’ and Matt Carthy will hold on to their seats. Micheál Martin will probably hold on as leader but it would be very unusual for the main ‘opposition’ party not to have gains in a mid-term election – but that’s what’s likely to happen. Not a great sign for the future if we have a general election within the next 12 months.
Having said that, it is almost inconceivable that the party would not win a seat in this constituency, with Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte in the field. It would be a very poor result indeed if one or other were not to take the seat made vacant by Marian Harkin.
Sinn Féin have three high profile outgoing candidates in the Euro poll and Matt Carthy, Lynn Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada should all be re-elected. The dramatic rise in support for Sinn Féin has stalled and they seem to have reached a plateau somewhere short of 20% nationally.
Labour are struggling badly. There was a time when the party would do well in Dublin in particular, but those days are over. They may have an outside chance in the Capital with Alex White, but that’s about it.
The Independent sector is well-populated. There are a number of interesting candidates this time around. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan looks like he will retain his seat in this constituency but it will be interesting to see how Clare Daly and Mick Wallace do in Dublin and Ireland South respectively. Peter Casey may have a chance in this area but I have a feeling that Ming has cornered the ‘protest’ vote.
Despite the fact that Brexit has dominated the news headlines over the past 12 months and the fact that many of our farmers are in receipt of payments from the EU (in terms of grants), I am of the firm opinion that there is very little or no interest in these European elections. The fact that they are being held on the same day as the local elections will ensure a decent turnout, but I shudder to think of how low the turnout would be if they were held on their own.
However, it won’t lessen the intensity, as this election will be hard-fought. The prize for the winners is massive…a huge salary and generous expenses, which is guaranteed for five years!
In this constituency I am predicting seats for Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carthy, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Brendan Smith.