European Elections: Independents and Sinn Fein prosper

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SINN FEIN, the Greens,and the independents polled strongly in Ireland amid a feeling of widespread disenchantment with the mainstream parties.

However, the strength of the various parties is likely to be broadly unchanged: the governing Fianna Fail seems likely to retain six of its seven seats; the centre-right Fine Gael, four; the Greens, two; Labour, one; and there will probably be one independent.

There were three striking personal performances. The golden-haired pin- up boy of Fianna Fail, wheelchair-bound Brian Crowley, secured a record 154,195 first-preference votes in Munster, nearly double the required quota.

In the north-western Connacht-Ulster, former Eurovision singer and conservative Catholic, Dana, Rosemary Scallon, won 51,000 first preferences, benefiting from well- publicised rows with rivals, and a big vote in border counties.

After fringe candidates were eliminated she was challenging strongly for the third seat against Marian Harkin, an independent western development candidate.

After her party retained their two seats, the Dublin Green MEP, Patricia McKenna, challenged the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, on his policy of taking Ireland into Nato's Partnership for Peace.

"Bertie Ahern said this election would be a test case for PfP. We have taken two seats. Maybe [he] should look at this again." Mr Ahern has drawn wide criticism for his decision not to hold a referendum on the issue of PfP, despite giving a general election commitment to that effect in 1997.

Mr Crowley's showing lifted FF's vote to 14.6 per cent in the southern Munster seat, and disguised an otherwise poor Fianna Fail vote, at 38.6 per cent of the national poll.

Sinn Fein consolidated its 1997 general election gains with a series of local gains in disadvantaged areas largely abandoned by other parties, notably in Dublin. Its vice-president, Pat Doherty, said its local and Euro showing pointed to it taking up to four Dail seats in the next general election. When counting adjourned, the party was also also set to increase its presence in local government. The poll rises came despite the grisly search for the bodies of IRA victims from the Seventies.

Internal squabbles did nothing to help Labour after its recent merger with Democratic Left. The party held its one seat in the capital, but lost 5.8 points on the Euro poll in 1994.