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Overview of frontrunners in Ireland South elections

Thursday, 23rd May, 2019 8:10pm
Overview of frontrunners in Ireland South elections

A TOTAL of 23 candidates are contesting the five available seats in Ireland South in the forthcoming European elections on May 24th. 

The constituency currently has four MEPs – Seán Kelly and Deirdre Clune (both Fine Gael), Baile Mhuirne’s Liadh Ní Riada (Sinn Féin) and Bandon’s Brian Crowley (Fianna Fáil). 

On the basis of the latest Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll, Seán Kelly, the former President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (2003-2006) from Knockataggle, just outside Killarney, is expected to top the poll. Since taking up the post in the largest political group (European People’s Party) in 2009, the 67-year-old Kerry man has been an active member of the Committee on Industry, Research & Energy, International Trade and Fisheries. 

Just less than two weeks from polling, it looks like Liadh Ní Riada is likely to retain her seat. Describing herself as a ‘republican, mother, entrepreneur, community activist, filmmaker and native Irish speaker,’ the 52-year-old West Cork woman and left-wing politician contested the Irish presidential election last October, returning 6.38% of first preference votes. 

As for first-time runners, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher is in with a good chance of securing the third seat. The 51-year-old front-bencher has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork North-Central since the 1997 general election. The politician, educated at the Sacred Heart College, Carrignavar, and Pallaskenrey Agricultural College in Co Limerick, served as Minister of State for Trade & Commerce from 2009-2011 and Minister of State for Labour Affairs from 2007-2009. 

Now that Brian Crowley has departed from political life, Fianna Fáil is hoping to make gains and sit in the ALDE (Liberal Democrat) political group in the EP –  no longer to be called ALDE in the future mandate – which is also expected to welcome members of French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche!

 It should be noted that in the last election in 2014, Crowley topped the poll securing more than 180,000 votes, with a surplus of around 50,000. For health reasons, he never took his seat in Brussels. 

For the fourth seat, it is likely to be a toss-up between sitting MEP Deirdre Clune (Cork City) and her fellow Fine Gael colleague Andrew Doyle (Junior Agriculture Minister and Wicklow-based TD). Wexford Councillor Malcolm Byrne is in with a good chance to secure the fifth and final seat. 

There is a plethora of independent candidates, but probably the best known are sitting TD Mick Wallace (Independents 4 Change) and West Cork farmer and founder of BioPower Group (bio-energy and organic waste management company) Walter Ryan Purcell. Both Sheila Nunan, the Labour Party candidate, and Grace O’Sullivan from the Greens are trailing behind at just 5% - well short of the required quota of 16.6% - but things could change in the run-up to election day as campaigning goes up a gear. 

Nunan is the General Secretary of the country’s largest union, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, while Senator O’Sullivan (Tramore, Waterford) will be hoping to tap into growing concerns about climate change and environmental protection. Describing herself as an ecologist and an environmental education specialist, the former Irish surf champion has ‘worked within committees and on the ground in a number of key areas with an ecological and human dimension to them, tackling environmental and social issues head-on, with passion and dedication.’ 

Isn’t that what we should expect from all of our public representatives?  

Rose O’Donovan is the editor-in-chief of the Brussels-based agricultural publication Agra Facts.