Dublin: European election constituency profile

Dublin candidate elected fourth will have to wait until UK exits EU to take Brussels seat

In most European countries, several of the Dublin constituency candidates would be in the same party. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In most European countries, several of the Dublin constituency candidates would be in the same party. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Among a large field of candidates – 19 for the four seats – about half can be considered serious contenders for seats and a few of those have only a slim chance of being in the final shake-up.

The Dublin constituency is geographically manageable – unlike the two remaining constituencies in the Republic – but with an electorate of over 800,000 and perhaps 350,000 likely voters, it is on a huge scale. As ever the air war in the media will command much of the candidates’ attentions but with the party machines geared up for local elections, this offers an obvious advantage to the parties that contain most of the strongest candidates.

Every council candidate’s leaflet has a picture of the European candidate, says one TD. “Our canvass instructions are to mention the European candidate at every door.” A party machine won’t win you an election on its own; but it certainly helps.

Contenders

There is no detailed, constituency level polling published yet, so everyone is shooting in the dark a bit.

But sources in all parties and none generally agree that there is almost certainly a Fine Gael seat for Frances Fitzgerald; nobody believes that Mark Durkan will either replace Fitzgerald or take a second seat for Fine Gael, and with elections likely in the North, the rationale for electing Durkan to be a voice for the North is rather diminished.

The Dublin list of candidates illustrates something important about the state of Irish politics right now

Historical precedent combined with the published polling for party strengths in Dublin suggests there is probably (though not certainly) a Fianna Fáil seat for Barry Andrews – it is a hugely important election for his party – and two left-of-centre seats for which the favourites are the Sinn Féin incumbent Lynn Boylan and the Independents for Change TD Clare Daly.

It won’t of course be as simple and straightforward as all that. Apart from the four names mentioned above, there’s a bunch of contenders who could dislodge either Andrews or one of the two left-wing women favourites.

The strongest contender for upsetting the above apple cart is probably Green Party candidate Ciarán Cuffe. Party leader Eamon Ryan almost won a seat in 2014 – and that was in a three-seater – at a time when the Green’s unhappy period in Government was a more recent memory than it is now.

Most of all, though, there has never been a time when climate change occupied a more central position in our political debate, and that hands an advantage to the Greens.

Alice Mary Higgins, the Independent senator and daughter of President Michael D Higgins has name recognition and a connection to the most popular politician (by some distance) in the country, but she lacks the advantage of a party machine, a disadvantage, especially when she is fishing in the same pool for votes as so many of her competitors.

They include the Labour candidate Alex White and the Social Democrats’ Gary Gannon, both of whom would need to massively outperform their parties’ current electoral strength to feature in the shake-up.

Building a profile

In this way, the Dublin list of candidates illustrates something important about the state of Irish politics right now and the extent to which the fracturing of the left retards its progress. In most European countries Daly, Higgins, Gannon and White would be in the same party.

With many of the candidates above bunched together, transfers and the order of eliminations in the count will be decisive. All will be aiming for one of the first three seats – the candidate elected fourth will have to wait until the UK exits to take their seat in Brussels.

The Solidarity-People Before Profit alliance ran two candidates in 2014 and split their vote, probably costing them a seat. They are running two candidates again – Gillian Brien and Rita Harrold – suggesting that they have chosen to use the election to build the profile of future general election candidates.

Hermann Kelly, the founder of the Irexit Party and Nigel Farage’s long-time adviser, is also running, as is the former journalist Gemma O’Doherty; both are likely to seek to make immigration an election issue.

Dublin (4 seats):

Barry Andrews (Fianna Fáil)
Lynn Boylan (Sinn Féin)*
Gillen Brien (Solidarity-People Before Profit)
Ciarán Cuffe (Green Party)
Clare Daly (Independents for Change)
Mark Durkan (Fine Gael)
Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael)
Gary Gannon (Social Democrats)
Ben Gilroy (Independent)
Rita Harrold (Solidarity-People Before Profit)
Alice Mary Higgins (Independent)
Hermann Kelly (Independent, but part of the Irexit movement)
Tony Bosco Lowth (Independent)
Aisling McNiffe (Independent)
Mark Mullan (Independent)
Eamonn Murphy (Independent)
Gemma O’Doherty (Independent)
Eilis Ryan (The Workers Party)
Alex White (Labour)

* Denotes outgoing MEPs; Brian Hayes (FG - retiring from politics), Ms Boylan and Nessa Childers (Independent, but also standing down). 

The constituency covers Dublin city and county.