This week I'm going to have a look at how the European elections are shaping up around the county.
I notice that Michael Ring has now withdrawn from contesting the European elections. Certainly I was surprised by the reaction of Jim Higgins, who must feel himself under pressure from Ring. Ring may regret in the future that he didn't put his name forward. He is concentrating on national politics and hoping that Fine Gael will get into government but there is no guarantee that Enda Kenny will make a minister out of him. And he might regret not leaving his name in the race. There must be concern in Fine Gael in relation to the electability of Jim Higgins, and Higgins was very foolish to respond the way he did to Ring because he will need his supporters and support for the European elections. Jim Higgins is always sailing close to the wind, with the recent judgement by the Morris tribunal, where he was criticised by Justice Morris, and now the threat of legal action by Declan Ganley - Higgins will need all the support he can get from Fine Gael in Mayo and outside Mayo. Especially now with the strong talk of Dr John Barton, who stood in the recent general election for Fine Gael in Galway East. Rumour has it they are also talking to a prominent GAA candidate in Donegal for Europe. This is a very important local and European election for Enda Kenny. For him to lose a seat in this European election would have serious consequences for him. Also I'm sure that Jerry Cowley is thinking seriously about going for Europe with an opening there now. Fianna Fáil’s Sean O'Neachtain will definitely be the Fianna Fáil candidate and it looks like Fianna Fáil are talking to Pat the Cope Gallagher again because they also feel their seat is under pressure.
And also if the aforementioned Declan Ganley decides to throw his hat into the ring along with Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLaochlinn, it could be an exciting race. Sinn Fein went very close to wining this seat off Jim Higgins on the last occasion and there is no doubt that coupled with the right-wing church vote that Dana got and his own personal popularity, Ganley could certainly be a strong candidate, and I have no doubt he will take one of the three seats in the forthcoming European elections.
A lot will depend on whether the government decide to have a futher referendum on Lisbon on the same date as the European and local elections. If there were a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty Declan Ganley would have little choice but to put his name forward as a candidate and he is also trying to get other candidates all over Europe. This could yet be one of the most exciting constituencies in the forthcoming European elections with the three sitting - O’Neachtain, Marian Harkin and Higgins - all feeling under pressure, particularly now with the mood of the people.
With recent opinion polls certainly in Fine Gael’s favour, but also in the independents’ favour, people may well go back to independents in the next election, because they will say “a plague in all your houses”. It would be a perfect opportunity for Dr Jerry Cowley, who would be well known over the country, to actually do better in a European election than a Dáil election.
Interesting days ahead, we will come back to the European election again at a later date.