Illogical constituencies to make for unpredictable Euro election

Midlands North West constituency comprises 15 counties from three provinces

MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher who will contest the Midlands North West constituency  for Fianna Fáil. Photograph: The Irish Times

MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher who will contest the Midlands North West constituency for Fianna Fáil. Photograph: The Irish Times

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 19:16

Harry McGee

Political Correspondent

Bar the late entry into the field of an independent candidate with a national profile (and it would be no surprise if that happened), the line up of candidates for the European elections is becoming clearer.

What is less clear is how these candidates will fare in the redrawn constituencies which have been cut from four to three.

The change has necessitated an ungainly carve-up. The Dublin constituency at least makes sense. There is an identifiable geographic locale and a sense of MEPs from there representing the city and its hinterland.

The other two constituencies are the proverbial dog’s dinner, a heterogeneous mish-mash of counties with little historic or cultural connection to each other.

When Roscommon and Longford were yoked together for a while the legendary political fixer from Longford Mickey Doherty pointed to the River Shannon that split the constituency better than the Berlin Wall and uttered: “Votes don’t swim”.

Well the same goes for the smorgasbord of Midlands North West, or the “Malin M50” constituency as political parties are calling it. The constituency comprises 15 counties from three provinces, taking in both the commuterland around Dublin and the most far-flung Atlantic seaboards.

The Munster and South Leinster constituency is also vast has the same difficulties of identity and coherence.

Was there a case to take on board the Green Party suggestion of treating the whole of Ireland as a single constituency for the purpose of these elections?

The latest development in the MNW constituency is the confirmation over the weekend that sitting Fianna Fáil MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher will stand again.

His party’s convention will be held on March 15th and the big question now is who his running mate will be?

It’s a four-seat constituency and Fianna Fáil should comfortably win one seat. Most people in the party believe it is unlikely to take a second.

At the same time, Gallagher is located in the northwest of Donegal and will need a second candidate to help cover the massive geographical area.

His people obviously want a kind of a ‘sweeper’ candidate who will help pick up votes but not be in a position to challenge for a seat.

Gallagher’s camp believes if the second candidate is too strong there is a possibility that the two Fianna Fáil candidates could end up fifth and sixth (without the chance of transferring to each other) and could both be excluded if the final seat is filled without reaching the quota.

Meath senator Thomas Byrne has been pushed hard by senior people in the party to stand and is considering it, though it’s thought he is reluctant.

Obviously, if he was the second candidate Gallagher’s camp would regard it as a threat.

Other names that have been mentioned are the former Kildare South TD Sean Power, a former independent candidate Seanán Ó Coistín, also from Kildare, and the former ICMSA president Pat O’Rourke.

How is it all going to pan out?

Well, as of now, Gallagher and Maireád McGuinness of Fine Gael are the front-runners and should win two seats.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy should also be in a strong position to win a seat (the party has seven TDs and two senators in the region).

The winning of the fourth seat could be a straight contest between independent Marian Harkin and Jim Higgins of Fine Gael, with the transfers of another independent Rónán Mullen being instrumental.

Lorraine Higgins of Labour is a strong candidate but will struggle to keep within distances.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.