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Fianna Fáil MEPs Billy Kelleher (R) and Barry Andrews (L) in 2021. Billy Kelleher MEP

Fianna Fáil MEPs expect 'a big shift to the right' in the upcoming elections, pushing them out

Barry Andrews suggested the Renew group may be cut out of the next parliament majority.

FIANNA FÁIL MEPs believe there will be a “big shift to the right” in the results of the upcoming European elections in June 2024.

While candidates run under their domestic party name, within the European Parliament they align with one of eight parliamentary groups. These groups reflect all aspects of the political compass, from the fringe right and left to centrist parties.

Currently Renew, which is a central, liberal democrat party, is in coalition with the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats – both viewed as more conservative than Renew.

Both Fianna Fáil MEPs, Dublin’s Barry Andrews and Ireland South’s Billy Kelleher, are members of the Renew parliamentary group.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels yesterday, Andrews suggested the Renew group may be cut out of the next European parliament majority, if the predicted shift were to happen.

Results reflecting a more right-leaning view “probably excludes Renew” from power, Andrews said.

This would see it being replaced with one of the more right-wing, eurosceptic parties – such as Identity and Democracy or the European Conservatives and Reformists groups.

Asked if the situation is comparable to the United States’ increase in Trump-ally Republicans, Andrews said that the European Union seems “much more polarised”.

Although Andrew said he believes the Irish vote will not show a shift (despite seeing an increase in anti-immigration rallies and anti-government protests recently), monitoring other elections around the continent, a trend of a right-leaning voice begins to emerge.

Andrews added that if this shift does come true, particularly in countries which  have just recently had a general or local election, the European Commission could reflect the Parliament’s shift.

Asked if this could impact any progressive, social policies that the current Parliament is looking to enact, Andrews agreed that that type of legislation would be the most impacted.

“We need to get to the finish line with a lot of legislation, from my perspective,” Andrews said.

IMG_0300 Fianna Fáil MEPs Barry Andrews (L) and Billy Kelleher (R) in Brussels yesterday. Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal / The Journal

Speaking at the same event yesterday, fellow Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said that it’s been difficult for Irish MEPs to make a voice for themselves, as they only make up 13 out of 705 MEPs.

“The French and the Germans really use this parliament very effectively – to try and get their policies through that reflect their national policies as well. And that’s something that we are a little slower to do, from the point of view of the Irish government,” Kelleher said.

Kelleher added that other European countries have been placing much more emphasis on the European elections and the role that their MEPs play in their democracies.

“We can’t just look at Europe as a place to park somebody up,” Kelleher said. “I think that day is over. The European Parliament is a core legislator, every law that’s passed has to go through this place.”

While Andrews believes the Irish polls will not reflect a shift to right-leaning politics, Kelleher said that Irish voters need to be reminded that the state is a “pro-European country”.

“We send out anti-European MEPs and that is an area where I think we have to have that strong debate. If you want to reflect Ireland’s view of the Parliament, the people you choose must reflect Ireland’s view in the Parliament,” he said.

Last week, The Journal asked Fine Gael MEPs if their European People’s Party (EPP) party mate, Ursula von der Leyen’s trip and solidarity with Israel could have damaged the European project in Ireland.

EPP and Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh said that she believes von der Leyen’s actions merely damaged the President’s “PR presence for a couple of days” but disagreed that it impacted the public view of the work of the EU bloc.

Meanwhile, fellow-party mate Colm Markey said “it’s not just Ursula von der Leyen, it is broader than Ursula von der Leyen and I think that is something we need to highlight”.

Asked if the matter would be brought up at the EPP’s party-summit this week by The Journal, MEP Frances FitzGerald said it was a matter for the Prime Ministers to decide.

FitzGerald disagreed with the proposal that von der Leyen would face any repercussions.

EPP MEP for Ireland South Seán Kelly told The Journal in Brussels yesterday that he agreed with FitzGerald, adding: “By and large, okay, she might have jumped in too soon, but in essence, I think there’ll be an understanding of where she comes from – Germany – and her history.

“Secondly, the backers of Hamas? Russia and Iran. So equating all those, I think there will be, obviously determination to try and end the conflict, and to help, particularly with humanitarian aid.

“As far as the negativity towards von der Leyen. I don’t get it,” he added.