Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew strikes more positive tone over election chances

Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew Strikes More Positive Tone Over Election Chances
Michelle Gildernew also struck a more positive tone about her chances when compared to her initial remarks.
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By Cillian Sherlock, PA

Sinn Féin’s leading candidate in Midlands-North-West has said the party is in with a “fighting chance” of keeping its seat, one day after suggesting she may lose out.

Michelle Gildernew is one of 27 candidates who contested the massive 15-county constituency to be one of Ireland’s members of the European Parliament.


After the 13th count at 4.30pm on Wednesday, left-wing independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan remained in the lead.

He was followed by three candidates in a tight grouping – Fine Gael hopefuls Nina Carberry and Maria Walsh, as well as Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.

European and local elections
Counting takes place at the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA)


Former RTÉ correspondent and Independent Ireland candidate Ciaran Mullooly leads the rest of the pack for the fifth and final seat, with a sizeable gap before his next-closest rival, Ms Gildernew.

One day after Ms Gildernew said she was “not overly optimistic” that she could overtake Mr Mullooly, the Sinn Féin representative said: “We just have to be patient, watch how the eliminations take place – and hope for the best.”

The former MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone may benefit from transfers following the expected elimination of Chris MacManus, who inherited the party’s seat in the constituency after Matt Carthy become a TD in Ireland’s Dail.

After Ms Gildernew initially described her performance to reporters as a “setback”, senior party figure Pearse Doherty also arrived at the TF Royal Theatre count centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo.


While he acknowledged there was an “uphill battle” to keep a seat, Mr Doherty said the party was expecting strong transfers from Mr MacManus.

“Transfers seem to be all over the place.

“So, look, I’ve been at enough counts where I’ve thought that candidates were out of the race only to find them to be hoisted shoulder high later on in the night and I’ve been at ones where we thought that there were candidates going to be shoulder high, only to find that they were eliminated.”

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is in the lead
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is in the lead. Photo: Niall Carson/PA.

On Wednesday, Ms Gildernew also struck a more positive tone about her chances when compared to her initial remarks.

She told reporters that it seems she is still in the race: “The transfers are going all over the place.

“It is very unpredictable. Yes, we’re still in with a fighting chance but it is hard to predict how it is going to end up.”


Asked if she had changed her mind since her initial comments which suggested she would lose out to Mr Mullooly, Ms Gildernew said: “Anything can happen in this election, lads.”

The new reading from the candidate tracks with projections by race leader Mr Flanagan, who is a keen count observer and has carried out his own tallies of second preferences for many of the remaining candidates.

He believes that Ms Gildernew could end up ahead of Mr Mullooly by the time it is expected that Fianna Fáil candidate Lisa Chambers is excluded late in the count.

With the health warning that there remained some uncertainty as he had not tallied Ms Chambers’ second preferences, Mr Flanagan said: “It is all to play for yet.”

Independent candidate Saoirse McHugh
Independent candidate Saoirse McHugh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA.

Elsewhere, independent candidate Saoirse McHugh said there was a “rotten” tone to the election campaign as asylum seekers were “scapegoated” for other issues in the constituency.

She said: “I think people seeking international protection were used and targeted – not just by people running on explicitly anti-migration platforms – but even a lot of the bigger parties.

“You know, we had the government parties doing these kinds of political performances of cruelty, moving people in tents.”

Ms McHugh, who is likely to be eliminated from the race, told Virgin Media: “You had Sinn Fein running literature that was talking about open borders. I think overall it was really nasty and it was quite unfair because it is a very vulnerable group.

“We do have moral and legal obligations and they were cynically used by parties across the spectrum in this campaign.”

Ms McHugh, a former Green party candidate, outpolled the party’s hopeful Pauline O’Reilly.

Asked about the performance of climate-focused candidates, Ms McHugh said: “At a European level, even before these elections, there’s been a rollback on measures for the environment.

“I’m really concerned about it because we don’t have five years of prioritising business and business as usual.”

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