Casey could be fly in EU ointment for main parties

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Peter Casey

All eyes may be drawn to next month's local elections, but its European equivalent could yet prove every bit as fascinating.

Under boundary changes announced by cabinet back in February, the Midlands North West constituency, incorporating that of Longford, retained its four seat allocations despite seeing Laois and Offaly move into the South.

The change was rubber-stamped by Brexit and and the redistribution of European seats formerly held by Ireland's closest trading partner to other member states of the European Union.

Despite Ireland's allotment of MEPs due to increase from 11 to 13, its two additional Brussels based politicians will only take up their positions when the UK’s withdrawal becomes legally effective.

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Whatever about the ins and outs of that constitutional wrangle, the scope of the constituency remains vast with Longford being joined by Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath and the city of Galway.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin apart, who recently announced her decision not to seek re-election, the constituency's three other outgoing MEPs include- Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin); Luke Ming Flanagan (Independent) and Mairead McGuinness (Fine Gael).

All three will be hoping to retain their seats come May 24 .

In her role as Vice-President of the European Parliament, Ms McGuinness is likely to top the poll.

Roscommon born former TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is also expected to retain his seat alongside that of Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy.

That leaves the fourth and final seat very much up for grabs.

Depending on who you talk to, its a race which is expected to see Presidential election runner up Peter Casey in the shake up.

The former Dragons' Den businessman could attract sizeable support from Longford voters, in view of his narrow victory over Michael D Higgins (37.41 to 37.1) in October.

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Fianna Fáíl's Brendan Smith is another formidable performer who is widely fancied to poll well in Longford and surrounding counties due to his Cavan connections.

Party running mate and Galway based TD Anne Rabbitte has been added to the ticket by the Fianna Fáíl hierarchy while Fine Gael will also be hoping for a strong showing from former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh.

Former Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan won the Labour party nomination at a selection convention earlier in the year.

The Green party, meanwhile has selected Saoirse McHugh, an environmentalist from Achill Island.

Of the remaining eight candidates declared, half of those have indicated their intentions to stand as Independents.

They include James Miller , Diarmaid Mulcahy, Dilip Mahapatra and Olive O’Connor with perhaps the most recognisable name being that of former Galway senator Fidelma Healy Eames.

The Moylough native and former Fine Gael party member, served as a senator between 2007 and 2016, announcing her retirement from politics that year after failing to secure a Dail seat.

Renua are pinning their electoral aspirations on Michael O’Dowd, a brother of Fine Gael TD Fergus.

Patrick Greene (Direct Democracy Ireland) and Cyril Brennan (Solidarity-People Before Profit) complete a 17 runner field in what is sure to be arguably the most keenly fought of Ireland's three EU constituencies in four weeks time.

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