Galway’s two EU candidates are set to be no more than also-rans and spectators at a race which will be dominated by Ulster, north-Connacht, and Leinster politicians.
Fourteen candidates are competing for four seats in the sprawling Midlands North-West EU constituency, which takes in Connacht, the three Ulster counties in the Republic, and north Leinster.
Of these, only two are from Galway - Labour’s Lorraine Higgins and the Independent, conservative senator Ronán Mullen. A quota in a four seater is 20 per cent. With Sen Higgins on eight per cent and Sen Mullen on four per cent, according to Monday’s The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, neither will be elected.
Midlands North-West is likely to be represented in Brussels through Fine Gael MEP Máiréad McGuinness, close to a quota on 18 per cent. She can expect to be pushed over the line by transfers from Fianna Fáil, centre-right Independents, and her running mate, MEP Jim Higgins, who at nine per cent is lagging behind Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and high profile Independents MEP Marian Harkin and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
Sinn Féin’s candidate, Cllr Matt Carthy, based in Monaghan is on 15 per cent and is in a good position to take a seat. SF traditionally has had trouble attracting transfers and sometimes in getting the left/protest vote out. However with the surge in support for the party in recent times, he must be considered a serious contender.
Fianna Fáil’s two candidates - MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher and Sen Thomas Byrne - are on a combined vote of 20 per cent, meaning FF can take a seat in MNW.
For this there needs to be a good transfer rate between them. However MEP Gallagher will be under pressure from fellow Ulsterman Cllr Carthy and Leitrim’s Marian Harkin. Sen Byrne could be an attractive candidate for many in the more urban areas of the constituency, but the sprawling nature of MNW, means many in Connacht-Ulster will see him as an outsider and mostly regard Leinster based candidates as lacking relevance.
Fianna Fáil is still likely to take a seat, but the strategy it has adopted is more risky than it appears on the surface.
The most fascinating battle will be for the Independent vote. Outspoken TD Ming Flanagan is on 12 per cent and MEP Harkin on 10 per cent.
MEP Harkin has been in situ since 1999 and is in danger of being seen as ‘part of the establishment’. Ming, fresh and victorious from his battles with controversial former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and tapping in to the genuine discontent, concern, and questioning attitude to the EU establishment, probably has more momentum on his side. His message is chiming deeply with voters in rural areas, including east Galway.
As such, MNW looks set to return two familiar faces in MEPs McGuinness and Gallagher, and two new ones in Flanagan and Carthy. However Harkin should not be written out and can still challenge for a seat.