FORMER Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald made a dramatic intervention in the European elections yesterday when calling on party supporters to back Fianna Fáil’s Eoin Ryan ahead of Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald in the race for the last seat in Dublin.
Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell and Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa are set to retain their seats in the constituency, leaving fellow MEPs Mr Ryan and Ms McDonald and Socialist Party candidate Joe Higgins in a battle for the final slot.
Mr FitzGerald said Fine Gael supporters should give their second preferences to “pro-Lisbon” candidates because of the importance of the treaty to Ireland’s interests.
“If that means Fianna Fáil people voting down the line for Gay Mitchell, fair enough, and if it means Fine Gael people or Labour voting for Eoin Ryan before Higgins or McDonald, then that’s the way it should be, I believe,” he told RTÉ radio.
His intervention caused difficulty for party headquarters, which is still dealing with the fallout from weekend comments by its director of elections Frank Flannery suggesting Fine Gael could enter coalition with Sinn Féin at some future point.
Although Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny disassociated himself from the remarks, they were seen as a message to supporters to give their second preferences to Ms McDonald and help her win the seat.
This is because the loss of Mr Ryan’s seat would be devastating to Fianna Fáil and a personal humiliation for Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Instead, however, it was Mr Kenny who was at risk of humiliation yesterday after Dr FitzGerald’s intervention.
In subsequent interviews, Mr Kenny dodged the question as to whom Fine Gael supporters should give their second preferences.
He insisted he was solely interested in Fine Gael and was not advising people to vote for anyone else.
But asked if he agreed that Mr Ryan losing his seat would be good news for Fine Gael, he replied: “I do.”
Elsewhere, Labour launched its proposals for economic recovery, which included commitments to help lower rents and rates for businesses.
The plan also included proposals to help those on the Live Register acquire new skills and work experience, with the party saying: “There is no bigger waste of money than paying people to do nothing.”
But the most noteworthy aspect of the launch was deputy leader Joan Burton’s appeal to voters to keep the Anglo Irish Bank debacle in mind when voting on Friday – a clear reminder of the Opposition’s hope that the local and European elections will turn into a referendum on the Government.
“It dwarfs every other issue national, local and European,” Ms Burton said. “On its own, it is sufficient to allow voters to make damning judgments on both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.”
Meanwhile, the Greens announced they had received the endorsements of financial adviser Eddie Hobbs, chef Darina Allen and broadcaster Duncan Stewart.
But former Green MEP Patricia McKenna, who’s standing as an Independent in the Dublin euro contest, claimed the party had “lost its way”.
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