Sinn Féin on course to be big winner in elections

A failure to manage the Garda crisis has resulted in coalition being on the back foot

 Sinn Féin’s   European election candidates Lynn Boylan (left) and Martina Anderson at the launch of Sinn Fein’s European election manifesto Dublin yesterday.  Photograph:  David Sleator/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin’s European election candidates Lynn Boylan (left) and Martina Anderson at the launch of Sinn Fein’s European election manifesto Dublin yesterday. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Tue, May 13, 2014, 15:35

Anybody who witnessed the first TV3 debate on the European elections with Midland North West candidates last night would know first-hand how chaos theory might work out in practice.

Vincent Browne did his best but the measure of the most successful debaters last night was those who shouted loudest won.

It was like the scene in Spinal Tap where a special amplifier boosted the volume up to 11.

There’s been a lot of chaos doing the rounds for the past few weeks.

It has affected Government where a continuing failure to manage the crisis afflicting the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice has resulted in the Coalition parties being back-footed in the run up to local and European elections.

It’s become a bit messy.

A senior Government minister has resigned.

Another Minister, Pat Rabbitte, talked about a sense of drift since the departure of the Troika and his party, Labour, have argued for a “renewal of purpose”.

But the immediate priority for all parties and none is the local and European elections on Friday week, as well as two Dáil byelections.

The paradox is that despite the sense of a backlash against the Government, Fine Gael might emerge as a big winner in the European elections and the two byelections and despite its whipping boy status for the past three years, Labour could actually salvage one seat in the European Parliament election.

But big winner undoubtedly is going to be Sinn Féin.

The party has fielded a candidate in Dublin, Lynn Boylan, who few people had ever heard of before, with absolutely no track record as a public representative, and with a ropey knowledge of European institutions.

Nobody knows if she’ll be a good MEP (she could very well be) or if she’ll tank or fade back into anonymity.

Notwithstanding all that, she will cruise home in second place in Dublin to Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes.

And given the superficial nature of mid-term election campaigns nobody is really going to truly test if she is up to the task or not.

Sinn Fein’s brand is strong but it was still a gamble to run unknowns like Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada.

Unsurprisingly, the image of its popular deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has become a proxy for the candidates in Dublin and South.

Other parties might complain about cynicism but they, and particularly Fine Gael, have been adept in the past at selecting ‘celebrity candidates’ with no electoral record to talk of.

Fine Gael’s latest reincarnation of George Lee is Eamon Coghlan, a much-decorated and revered athlete who was one of the Taoiseach’s nominees to the Seanad.

Selected as its candidate in Dublin West Coghlan has a real chance despite not being a natural politician.

His record in the upper house is hardly of the Edmund Burke variety (his main concerns in the few speeches he has given is health, obesity and fitness).

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