If the latest polls are correct Fine Gael is likely to emerge as the biggest winner from the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, with the party’s candidates topping the polls in the regional constituencies of Dublin, South and the catchall Midlands–North-West (which, excluding Dublin, provides a pleasingly historical Leath Mhogha and Leath Choinn analogy for the division of the country). While the glacially slow electoral recovery by Fianna Fáil seems to be on track a majority of right-of-centre voters continue to favour the Blueshirts. Which leaves one with the impression that FF is placing more faith in the local government elections to be held on the same day as the European ones, following Micheál Martin’s conservative strategy of bottom-up consolidation and rebuilding for the former “party of government”.
Some surveys are placing Sinn Féin in a poor third position for the European Parliament elections, though caveats abound given the methods being used by the polling companies to “weigh” the SF vote. That said, it seems likely that Mary Lou McDonald’s party will benefit from increased support in the locals which it will no doubt use to deflect from any possible drop or levelling off in its Brussels’ vote. Thankfully the Labour Party continues to languish in the electoral doldrums with the Green Party enticing away some of its more well-heeled voters with touchie-feelie policies designed to ease liberal consciences, while SF eats into its ever-shrinking working-class base. Given that the Greens have failed to apologise for their embrace of neoliberal politics while previously in government their sudden popularity can be best explained by short voter memories, the growing importance of environmental politics and some positive spin off the success of their regional branch in the northern local elections.
Speaking of which, in what we might term the “North-East Ulster” constituency for the European Parliament, things are hotting up in the race for the third seat. The Sinn Féin candidate is set to top the poll with the Democratic Unionist Party likely to come in a close second but the third and final seat seems to be up for grabs, following decades of control by the Ulster Unionist Party. Could a second nationalist or moderate pro-union candidate take it? The Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland certainly seem to think so, which may explain why their supporters and representatives are taking lumps out of each other in online debates and rows. Which makes for an interesting spectacle. Whatever the case, it’s probable that two Remain-supporting MEPs are going to be elected in the Six Counties, strengthening the local demand for the British government and parliament to concede in its opposition to the peace-saving Backstop Protocol in the draft Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.