On the second day of the 2019 European elections, together with the Czech Republic, the people of the Republic of Ireland will head to the polls to elect their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for the next five years. Ireland currently has 11 seats in the European Parliament, but this number will increase to 13 once the Brexit process is complete. Ireland has approximately 3,200,000 eligible voters spread across three constituencies. MEPs will be elected using the single transferable vote system, meaning that a voter ranks candidates by preference and their vote is transferred if their preferred candidate has failed to meet the quota and has been eliminated.
The governing Fine Gael (EPP) is riding high from their relatively successful handling of Brexit thus far and is set to hold the four seats they won in 2014. They have high-profile candidates up for election including former Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald; First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuiness; and former President of the Gaelic Athletic Association and current MEP, Seán Kelly.
Europe Elects projects that left-wing Sinn Féin (GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament) are set to retain their three seats which they swept up at the 2014 European Elections. The party are running one candidate in each constituency, ensuring their vote base will not be split. Although, the party could have trouble holding their seat in Dublin, with stiff competition from the fragmented left-wing parties and independents. Competition is particularly fierce from veteran Teachta Dála (TD) (Member of Parliament) from the Independents 4 Change (I4C) Clare Daly, who has indicated to Europe Elects that she will sit with GUE/NGL in the European Parliament if elected.
Fianna Fáil (ALDE) are expected to see the biggest gains of any Irish party in terms of seats – Europe Elects projects the centre-right party will win a total of three seats, up from their current single seat. The party’s decision to put up multiple candidates in two constituencies has been criticised and could backfire, resulting in the party splitting its support base. Their sole incumbent MEP, Brian Crowley, is not running for re-election. Crowley theoretically broke with ALDE group and sat with the ECR group in the European Parliament for the 2014-2019 session (he failed to attend a single parliamentary meeting) but Fianna Fáil has confirmed that their incoming MEPs will sit with ALDE.
Since their record result in the 2011 general election, the Labour Party (S&D) has seen a sharp decline and now hover around 5 per cent. According to our latest projections, Europe Elects does not foresee Labour gaining enough votes to secure a seat in the European Parliament. The former Labour MEP Nessa Childers, who left the party in 2013 but remained sitting with the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, will not stand for re-election. As a result, Europe Elects forecasts that the Socialists and Democrats will lose their sole Irish member.
After successful appearances in pre-election TV debates, the Green Party (G-EFA) has recently overtaken Labour in the polls as the fourth largest party, hitting 7 per cent. This is just short of their record 7.9 per cent result in the 1994 European Elections. Despite this, Europe Elects does not project the party gaining representation in the European Parliament but due to Ireland’s electoral system, they could gain a seat based on transfer votes from other parties once candidates have been knocked out.
The Social Democrats, founded in 2015, have indicated that they will join the S&D group in the European Parliament if they gain representation in the European Parliament. They have put a single candidate up in the capital, but due to the fragmented left, the party has thus far failed to break through in the competitive field and Europe Elects does not project the party gaining a seat.
There are also a number of independent candidates who could challenge the established parties for a seat in the European Parliament. Europe Elects projects that incumbent MEP, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (GUE/NGL), will retain his seat in the Midlands-North-West constituency. The aforementioned Clare Daly in Dublin is also expected to pull in big numbers and could challenge Sinn Féin for the left-wing vote in the capital and is very much in contention for the post-Brexit fourth seat. Daly’s I4C colleague in the Dáil, Mick Wallace, is also expected to fare well, although Europe Elects does not forecast him gaining a seat in the South constituency.
What seems almost unique to Ireland is that the country lacks a major Eurosceptic force running in the election. Sinn Féin in recent years has warmed somewhat to the EU, but remains critical, particularly of its economic policies and its militarisation. The national-conservative Renua, left-wing Solidarity-People Before Profit, anti-establishment Direct Democracy Ireland, and far-right Identity Ireland are all vary-degrees of Eurosceptic but are far from reaching the support needed to gain a seat in any of Ireland’s three constituencies.
Edited by Euan Healey