European and local elections will present opportunity to test Fianna Fáil recovery
Opinion: Results could also impact on the fortunes of some of the party leaders
Once the final shape of the constituencies is known, attention will turn to the identity of candidates. It seems clear already, however, that of the 12 MEPs elected in 2009, perhaps half of them will not be contesting in May 2014.
Their replacements, Paul Murphy, Phil Prendergast and Emer Costello respectively, are relatively unknown, promoted to the European Parliament from the subs list put before the electorate at the last election. Each has worked diligently to raise their profile but none has the vote-pulling power of their predecessor.
Labour’s difficulties are further compounded by the fact that Nessa Childers, elected for it in Leinster in 2009, will contest next year’s election as an Independent if she runs at all.
Long-time Fine Gael incumbent in Dublin Gay Mitchell has announced he will retire in May, and the intentions of Fianna Fáil’s Pat “The Cope” Gallagher and Liam Aylward, whatever they say publicly, are still unclear. In recent weeks both Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley, who was hospitalised for much of the current term, and Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins, whom some party insiders were suggesting might retire, have reiterated that they intend to run again in t May.
Absent Mitchell, De Rossa and Higgins, Dublin is wide open. Fine Gael apparently is still undecided on whether to run Eamonn Coghlan or whether they need to recruit another lightly Fine Gael branded name. Labour will stick with Costello who will struggle, as will Paul Murphy. Sinn Féin may prove stronger than both.
Fianna Fáil has no obvious solution to its Dublin candidate problem. Some are beginning to talk about “concentrating on the locals in Dublin”.
In the expanded Ireland South constituency, assuming Crowley recontests he will be safe, as will Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly. The third seat is likely to go to a south Leinster candidate from Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
The expanded Ireland North and West constituency will see one comfortable Fine Gael seat, probably for Jim Higgins. There will also be a seat for Marian Harkin, and if Gallagher doesn’t run then a cluttered battle between his Fianna Fáil replacement, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael’s north Leinster candidate, the now Independent Colm Keaveney and one if not two high-profile Independents.
Next June will see some well known Irish faces make their first appearance in the next European Parliament.