Scramble on for seats in redraw of three large constituencies
Some MEPs will struggle to retain their posts in new electoral division
Former Fianna Fáil minister Mary Hanafin wants to run but the party hierarchy is not convinced
Government and Opposition MEPs may see their seats come under threat next year after a recasting of European constituencies.
This is the backdrop against which Fine Gael and Labour will seek to minimise any losses. With Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party trying to gnaw at Labour’s base and Fianna Fáil fighting to find a way back from the cold, it promises to be a gripping contest.
Dublin remains a three-seater. In 2009, the spoils went to veteran big beasts, Proinsias De Rossa, Gay Mitchell and Joe Higgins of Labour, Fine Gael and the Socialist Party respectively. De Rossa has retired, with substitute MEP Emer Costello set to the contest the seat. Mitchell is retiring, and speculation centres on a run for junior minister Brian Hayes or Senator Eamon Coghlan. Joe Higgins has returned to the Dáil and his substitute Paul Murphy will run next May.
Hayes’s high profile suggests he would be a strong contender but he is not certain to run. In political circles, observers say Labour’s persistent poll weakness points to a difficult campaign for Costello. Like Murphy, she is an incumbent who did not run last time out and lacks profile for it.
Former Fianna Fáil minister Mary Hanafin wants to run but the party hierarchy is not convinced. She may face a challenge from former Government chief whip John Curran. Dublin is a wasteland for Fianna Fáil, which has not a single TD in the capital.
Sinn Féin has yet to decide who runs and the party’s perceived emphasis is more on the next Dáil election.
There are two new mega-constituencies with four seats each. This is daunting. Candidates in Midlands-North-West must find appeal in Donegal, Laois, Galway and Louth while candidates in South must make an impression in Wicklow, Kerry, Wexford and Kerry.
Big-name figures may take this in their stride. So the struggle should not be insurmountable for Mairéad McGuinness of Fine Gael in Midlands-North-West. The same goes in South for Seán Kelly of Fine Gael and Brian Crowley of Fianna Fáil.
Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, as a “man of the west”, wants to run again but the party leadership sees more attraction in Mayo TD John O’Mahony, who has GAA pedigree.
The high profile of Independent Marian Harkin in the west should help her, but she lacks organisational thrust to take her message to Louth, Meath, Kildare and Offaly.
Pat the Cope Gallagher of Fianna Fáil may run again in Midlands-North-West but needs a strong running mate. His colleague Liam Aylward, now in East, is unlikely to run.
Independent Nessa Childers has seen a quarter of her constituency cut away. Having left Labour, it will not be easy.