In a simultaneous launch of European candidates in Dublin yesterday, the party announced that Bairbre de Brún would be its representative in the three-seater North of Ireland constituency. Following Sinn Féin’s strong performance in the Assembly elections, Ms de Brún is seen as the favourite to take the Nationalist seat currently held by former SDLP leader John Hume.
However, should Mr Hume decide to contest the election, his personal popularity will make it a much closer contest than his party’s poor showing in the recent elections may suggest.
Sinn Féin will also be fielding candidates in all four constituencies here. Mary Lou McDonald, who is standing in Dublin, represents the party’s best chance of winning a seat. It is anticipated she will put in a strong challenge for the seat held by Green MEP Patricia McKenna.
Party president Gerry Adams, speaking at the launch, said Sinn Féin has its first real opportunity of winning seats in the European Parliament. “In the last decade, Sinn Féin has gone from strength to strength as our agenda for change starts to have a real impact. We want to bring this agenda for change to the heart of Europe.
“We are contesting this election to win, to return Sinn Féin’s first ever MEPs to Europe. This is a realisable goal.”
The other three candidates are less known nationally. David Cullinane from Waterford City will contest in South; Pearse Doherty from Gweedore, Co Donegal, is the North-West candidate; and John Dwyer from New Ross, Co Wexford, will stand in the East constituency.
Mary Lou McDonald, a member of the party’s Ard Chomhairle, has build up a strong base in Dublin West in recent years. The other three candidates are unlikely to challenge for seats. However, they are being groomed as future TDs, with party strategists hoping they will break through either in the 2007 or subsequent elections.