While Labour are poised to make gains in Galway city during the Local Elections, achieving an EU seat in the North West constituency in June’s EU election will prove a much tougher task.
Within the last week it has emerged that the journalist Susan O’Keeffe will be Labour’s EU candidate for the North West.
Ms O’Keeffe came to national attention in 1991 following her World In Action ITV documentary that exposed serious malpractice in the Irish beef industry. It led to the establishment of the controversial beef tribunal, at the end of which Ms O’Keeffe was the only individual threatened with gaol.
Ms O’Keeffe lives in Sligo and would be regarded as a ‘high profile catch’ but despite this, winning a seat will not be easy. In a sense 1991 is a very long time ago, but Labour will be hoping Ms O’Keeffe’s exposure of corruption then may strike a chord with voters now who are disgusted by revelations of corrupt banking practices.
She will do well in Sligo and the addition of Westmeath to the constituency is a boost in that it provides an extra hunting ground for all candidates. However the fact remains that much of the constituency is barren territory for Labour.
To have any hope of taking an EU seat Labour needs a big vote in Co Galway. Dep Michael D Higgins enjoys a good vote and draws transfers from across the board - but he is not running and he tends to receive a more ‘personal’ vote than a Labour vote.
Labour’s city council candidates stand to poll well but in the county the party knows it has a tougher task. This applies even more in Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, etc.
Allied to this is the problem that several other ‘big names’ are also in the field. All three sitting MEPs have high profiles - Fianna Fáil’s Sean Ó Neachtáin, Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins, and Independent Marian Harkin.
Furthermore the presence of Libertas’ Declan Ganley and the possibility of former Celtic and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner running will see Ms O’Keeffe being only one of several ‘big names’ fishing in a small pond of three seats.