Labour drubbing will be chance to ‘reflect’

Labour will have an "opportunity to reflect" after this week’s local and European elections, according to deputy leader Joan Burton, as the party prepares for a drubbing by disenchanted voters who are turning to Sinn Féin and a mostly left-wing group of Independents.

Labour drubbing will be chance to ‘reflect’

Leader Eamon Gilmore, however, insisted his job will not come into question after votes are counted next weekend, ruling out the possibility of a debate within the party on his leadership.

The two were launching a policy strategy — or “seven-point plan” — for Dublin yesterday, aimed at boosting support for MEP Emer Costello, who faces an uphill struggle to retain her seat.

If weekend opinion polls are proven correct, the junior Coalition party could end up without any of the country’s 11 European Parliament seats, while Sinn Féin surges ahead, taking one in each constituency.

Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan is on course to top the poll in Dublin with 19% support, according to a Behaviour and Attitudes poll in the Sunday Times, and 23% according to a Millward Brown poll in the Sunday Independent.

She will be followed in close second by Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes, while five others are neck and neck in the battle for the final seat, with Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick at 12%, the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan and Independent Nessa Childers at 11%, Brid Smith of People Before Profit at 10%, and Socialist Paul Murphy at 9%. Labour’s Emer Costello trails at 7%.

The picture is even worse for Labour in the South, where Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley appears unstoppable in his quest for a fifth poll-topping election. He is likely to be closely followed by Fine Gael’s sitting MEP, Seán Kelly, who has between 15% and 17%, and Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada on between 14% and 16%.

While the fourth seat is between the two other FG candidates, Deirdre Clune and Simon Harris, Labour’s Phil Prendergast is all but out of contention.

Such a loss of European seats, combined with a drop as far as the 7% predicted by the polls in the local elections, would leave Labour unable to avoid the question of Mr Gilmore’s leadership.

However, the Tánaiste put a brave face on things yesterday, saying around a third of voters are still undecided.

“We always understood that this was going to be a challenging election for us, but I am satisfied that as the campaign continues, support for the Labour Party is continuing to grow,” he said.

Asked if his leadership would be in question after next weekend, he simply answered: “No!”

Ms Burton, his would-be successor, was more circumspect. “I think that, after the local and European elections, we will have an opportunity to reflect,” she said. “The Taoiseach and Tánaiste have spoken about that previously, and that will allow us to reinvigorate what we seek to deliver to people in Ireland: Prosperity, employment and the recovery.”

Earlier, she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics a reshuffle later this year will be “an opportunity to pause and look and to see what do we want to do in the next two years of the life of this Government”. But, she said, “at the end of the day only two men have the call on this — Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore”.

The elections will also be a big mid-term test for Fine Gael and although they are poised to win the greatest number of seats in the European elections, their support is expected to fall to 25% for the local elections, according to the Behaviour and Attitudes poll — down 7% from the 2009 vote.

Asked if his party would pay a price for introducing water charges, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: “We’ll wait and see.”

The most significant poll findings is that Sinn Féin support has not been hit by the arrest of Gerry Adams, with the party set to increase its vote in the local elections from 7% in 2009 to 17%.

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