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Fine Gael confident Deirdre Clune can keep seat despite poor poll showing

Deirdre Clune while visiting Cape Clear Island today. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM Photo

By Daniel McConnell, Ben O'Brien and Fiachra O Cionnaith

Fine Gael has played down concern that MEP Deirdre Clune is set to lose her seat in Friday's European elections.

Ms Clune is one of three sitting MEPs contesting Ireland South, with five seats up for grabs. But she was placed seventh in a Red C poll.

The Sunday Business Post poll showed that current MEPs Sean Kelly of Fine Gael and Liadh Ní Riada of Sinn Féin were leading proceedings with 17% and 15% respectively of those polled showing support. Cork North-Central TD Billy Kelleher followed closely on 13% and his Fianna Fáil colleague, Gorey-based councillor Malcolm Byrne sitting on 10%.

The group then tightens up with Grace O'Sullivan of the Green party and Mick Wallace of Independents4Change each on 8% followed by Ms Clune and Andrew Doyle on 7% and 6%.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy yesterday said Ms Clune is an excellent candidate.

“I think she will do incredibly well, We are running three candidates to take three seats in Ireland South and we will see what happens after the votes are cast,” he said.

Mr Murphy denied his party's support is slipping amid continuing controversies over the National Broadband Plan and the Children's Hospital.

“I don't think our popularity is on the wane. If you look at what we are going to be doing over the next four or five days, we are going to be going out with the strong belief that we have the best team for the European Parliament at a time of Brexit, when Brexit is not resolved.

"We are sending some of our most capable politicians and Fine Gael representatives over to Europe and we are asking people to support them and we hope that they will,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael's woes have allowed Fianna Fail begin to think it can secure two of the five seats.

Mr Kelleher is in contention for the seat vacated by perennial poll-topper Brian Crowley but Mr Byrne, who has impressed so far in the campaign, is also in the hunt.

The Irish Examiner has learned that Mr Martin met with his two candidates at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick during the hurling clash on Sunday and expressed happiness with the party's campaign strategy.

Speaking on RTÉ News, Mr Martin rejected talk that running two candidates in Ireland South and in Midlands/Northwest was a mistake.

“Well, they're very large constituencies. No, it's not a risk as far as we're concerned. There are different factors at play, in Ireland South, for example, it's very possible that Billy Kelleher and Malcolm Byrne could win two seats - they're geographically well positioned,” he said.

Outlining his preference that TDs not stand for Europe, Mr Martin said he did not force his view on party members.

“Members of the party choose, at conventions, the candidates - there were some additions after that but, ideally, I articulated a view. I didn't, of course, force my position and, in retrospect, it's a good idea for the profile of the candidates that they're well known which is important.”

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