Fianna Fáil divides European constituencies between candidates

Councillor candidate claims TD Billy Kelleher is not taking seriously the prospect of the party winning two seats in Ireland South

Fianna Fáil has issued internal orders to divide sprawling European parliament constituencies between its candidates to maximise the party vote.

The move also comes amid tension between some constituency colleagues. Frontbench TD Billy Kelleher and Wexford councillor Malcolm Byrne are Fianna Fáil candidates for Ireland South, and Mr Byrne has accused Mr Kelleher of not taking the prospect that the party could win two seats in the constituency seriously.

“Our strategy is to try and win two seats, and we wanted the divide,” he said of his own camp. “Billy seemed content to only look for one. We need to be ambitious.”

Mr Byrne also expressed some surprise that Mr Kelleher had been canvassing in Wicklow in the very east of the constituency.

Lisa Chambers, a Mayo TD who is Fianna Fáil's national director of European elections, has issued directives for Ireland South and Midlands North West, where the party is also running two candidates: TDs Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte.

Barry Andrews is the sole Fianna Fáil candidate in Dublin, the third constituency in the Republic.

Midlands North West is a four-seat constituency. Dublin is a three-seater, and Ireland South is a four-seater, but both will receive an extra seat if Brexit happens by the time of the European Parliament elections at the end of May.

If the UK has not left the EU by polling day and has to take part in the elections, the fourth finisher and fifth finisher in Dublin and Ireland South will be effectively kept in reserve until Brexit actually takes place.

Ms Chambers told The Irish Times the party can compete for a total of five seats. Fianna Fáil only won one seat at the last European Parliament elections in 2014, although Brian Crowley lost the party whip soon after his victory.

Two quotas

In an email sent by Ms Chambers to Mr Kelleher and Mr Byrne, she said a divide of Ireland South – which takes in Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford, Wicklow, Limerick and Waterford – "gives the best chance of maximising the vote and securing two seats". She notes that the quota in a five seater is 16.66 per cent, with two quotas 33.33 per cent.

"Published polls put the party at about 27-28 per cent across the constituency [Red C, March 2019, Munster 25 per cent; Leinster 29 per cent]," she wrote.

“The same poll puts FG at 34 per cent in Leinster, 26 per cent in Munster. The first-count performance of both candidates is key: both need at least 0.6 quota and to be in the top five placing on the first count.”

The divide is based on an analysis of the party vote in the 2016 general election. Mr Byrne has been allocated Leinster, Waterford and Tipperary. Mr Kelleher has been allocated the rest of Munster. *

"Limerick City Dáil constituency is open territory, open to both candidates," Ms Chambers' email says.

A similar note to Mr Smith, a TD for Cavan-Monaghan, and Ms Rabbitte, a Deputy for Galway East, allocates Leitrim, Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan and Louth to Mr Smith, with Ms Rabbitte given Galway, Roscommon, Mayo and Sligo. Counties Kildare, Meath, Longford and Westmeath are open to both candidates.

Such divides are not needed in Dublin since Mr Andrews is the only candidate.

*This article was amended on April 11th 2019