Sinn Féin ‘not afraid’ of general election, Carthy says

Sinn Féin ‘Not Afraid’ Of General Election, Carthy Says
Co. Monaghan crash, © PA Archive/PA Images
Share this article

By Cillian Sherlock, PA

Sinn Féin is “not afraid” of a general election, according to senior party spokesman Matt Carthy.

The party has been bruised by worse-than-expected local election results across Ireland and is at risk of losing seats held at the European Parliament, including in the Midlands-North-West constituency.


Speaking to reporters at the TF Royal Theatre count centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo, Mr Carthy said Sinn Féin was “fighting” to keep a seat in the region.

He said he and the rest of party leadership know that they have “lessons to learn”.

“We need to get down to brass tacks and actually back to earning the trust of the people in advance of the general election.”

Also speaking in Castlebar, Aontú leader and candidate in the constituency Peadar Tóibín called Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership of Sinn Féin into doubt.


Northern Ireland council elections
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Tóibín, who was previously a Sinn Féin representative, said the fall in momentum of Ms McDonald’s party may not be over.

“There’s serious questions for Mary Lou’s leadership,” he said.


“People I’ve spoken to in count centres across the country are questioning whether Mary Lou should continue on as the leader of her political party.

“I’m hearing people saying Pearse Doherty’s name more and more. And you know, one of the truisms of politics is never forget your base and I think Mary Lou McDonald has been a flip-flop shop over the last while and she has forgotten her base in many ways.”

Speaking later, Mr Carthy dismissed accusations of flip-flopping by accusing Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of the “largest flip-flop in Irish politics over the last number of decades” by being in a coalition Government together – after the parties forged in the Civil War set aside almost a century of animosity in 2020.

He said Sinn Féin was “not afraid” of a general election whenever it may be called, adding: “I’m impatient for a general election to get an opportunity to kick them out.”


First results in Midlands-North-West are not expected until between 8pm and 9pm on Monday, according to the returning officer.

Counting of ballots in Ireland’s European Parliament elections got under way on Sunday after votes were cast on Friday.

There are 27 candidates fighting for five seats in the massive electoral region which spans 15 counties.

European and local elections
Fianna Fáil candidate Lisa Chambers (Niall Carson/PA)

Returning officer Marian Chambers Higgins said first results would be due between 8pm and 9pm on Monday.

The counting on Monday could continue until 1am, depending on how long the redistribution of eliminated candidates’ votes takes.

The current four MEPs are independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan, Fine Gael’s Colm Markey and Maria Walsh, as well as Sinn Féin’s Chris MacManus.

Mr Markey was withdrawn and Fine Gael has selected Irish Grand National-winning jockey Nina Carberry in his stead – a move seen as a celebrity candidature.

European and local elections
Candidate Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Niall Carson/PA)

She will compete among the 27 total runners and riders in the contest, including unsuccessful presidential election candidate and entrepreneur Peter Casey as well as former RTÉ correspondent Ciaran Mullooly.

Sinn Féin is also fielding its former MP Michelle Gildernew, who is among the candidates saying they will be a voice for Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit European Parliament.

However, the party is at risk of having no representation in the region after splitting its vote.

Mr Carthy, who co-opted Mr MacManus into his European seat after becoming a TD, cautioned against counting anyone out until the results are actually announced.

“Clearly, we would prefer to be in a better position that we weren’t fighting for a seat – but at the moment, we are fighting for a seat and we’re hopeful that we can get one of our candidates over the line.”

Asked if he believed he would have fared better had he been seeking re-election to the European Parliament, Mr Carthy said he did not think so.

He said European election results tend to correlate with Sinn Féin’s popularity and said that the candidates in Midlands-North-West had difficulties.

He said Mr McManus took the seat during Covid-19 and that Ms Gildernew was struck by the death of a relative in the days before polling.

“Lots of things within the campaign probably could have been done better, but some parts of it were beyond our control and you just have to face that down.”

Elsewhere, the Fianna Fáil campaign has been marred by infighting, as border region hopeful Niall Blaney accused the party leadership of throwing him and Mayo representative Lisa Chambers “overboard” in favour of Barry Cowen, who brings strong name recognition to the table.

Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Fine Gael European election candidate Maria Walsh (Brian Lawless/PA)

It seems assured that Mr Flanagan, Mr Cowen and Ms Walsh will take seats, leaving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil scrapping it out with Mr Mullooly, Sinn Féin candidates and Mr Tóibín for the remaining two seats.

Mr Tóibín said: “It is all to play for and very possible for us.”

Mr Flanagan, who issued a warning to Government parties following the local election results, said: “I think it might make them a little bit complacent.

“It might make them deluded as to the idea that (Fine Gael leader and Irish premier) Simon Harris is some sort of savior and I think the general election will show that he isn’t.”

Ms Chambers said on Sunday that she was confident that Mr Cowen will “comfortably” take a seat for Fianna Fáil, adding she herself was also “in the mix” for the fifth and final spot against Sinn Féin candidates and Ms Carberry.

Mr Mullooly, who would have been tasked with covering several election counts throughout his career with RTÉ News, said he had deliberately avoided the count centre until Monday evening.

The Independent Ireland candidate, who said he was nervously waiting to see if transfers could secure him a seat, added: “I hate counts, I hate election counts. I have done for years.

Independent candidate Saoirse McHugh, who previously ran as a candidate for the Green Party, said she was happy with her campaign but did not expect a particularly strong result.

Asked if she would consider any future electoral campaign, she said she was not thinking about that – noting she needed to finish organising her upcoming wedding first

Hundreds of count staff have been processing approximately 700,000 ballots for the region in Castlebar.

The 73cm-long ballot paper was described as “like a toilet roll” by Mayo politician Michael Ring on Sunday.

That means there was around 6,650 kilogrammes of paper across more than 500 kilometres of ballots to sort through by hand – longer than the length of the island from Malin Head to Mizen Head.

With so many candidates, the entire process is projected to last until at least Wednesday – with Mr Flanagan predicting a recount at some stage during the proceedings.

Ms Chambers Higgins said counters would “be well into it by Tuesday night”, adding that she had no problem going late.

Should a recount push things on through Friday night – when Irish comedian Jarlath Regan has a scheduled sell-out show at the theatre – count staff certainly will not be laughing.

There is a Tina Turner tribute act booked for Saturday night – with parties hoping their candidate will be crowned simply the best long before then.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by