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'Having a record helps': Marian Harkin hopes experience will help retain Euro seat

The former TD is the sitting MEP for ‘Ireland North-West’ but will compete in vastly expanded ‘Midlands-North-West’ constituency next year.

Marian Harkin (File photo)
Marian Harkin (File photo)
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

INDEPENDENT MEP MARIAN Harkin has admitted she is worried by the likely influx of new independent candidates into her redrawn constituency next year, but is hopeful her experience will count.

The Sligo-born former TD is the sitting MEP for ‘Ireland North-West’ but will compete in vastly expanded ‘Midlands-North-West’ (MNW) constituency in next year’s European Parliament elections.

The reduction in Ireland’s number of MEPs from 12 to 11 has resulted in a boundary redraw that involves two large constituencies outside of Dublin.

The MNW constituency will see Harkin take on five new counties and 550,000 more constituents if re-elected. This presents a logistical and financial challenge for the former MEP of the Year.

As well as this, it’s expected that high-profile candidates like senator Rónán Mullen and former Labour chairman Colm Keaveney will also run. Harkin says that without party resources independents will “need a national profile”.

“People think money is the most important thing, it’s not, a record helps, big time. Knowing your face is crucial, you’ve no chance if people don’t know who you are,” she told TheJournal.ie in Brussels this week.

Harkin, who is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), is counting on experience from her three previous elections battles to put her over the line.

Dana and Declan Ganley

While she lost out to Dana in 1999, she was elected in 2004, topping the poll and ousting Dana in the process. She repeating her poll-topping performance in 2009, seeing off the challenge of, among others, Libertas’ Declan Ganley.

“I managed to take the seat then two elections ago and then the last election, Declan Ganley came in fourth as it happened. So there is a very significant independent vote,” she said.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has suggested that as much as €100,000 per candidate will be needed in order for them to make an impact and have a chance of being elected. It goes without saying that that’s easier for a party than it is for a candidate.

While acknowledging the need for funding, Harkin does not expect to raise or spend that amount next year, saying she knows how to operate “on a shoestring”.

“Go back to ’99, people thought I was crazy,” she said. “When I look back on it I had no machine, I had nothing, I mean I still don’t I just have good people who go out and canvass and put up posters for me.”

Harkin expects the new constituency to result in an increased Sinn Féin vote, but is confident that even with the change in demographics she will have a chance of retaining her seat.

“I am looking forward to it but I don’t know what I’ll be like when it’s done!” she added.

Of the main parties, Fine Gael is likely to run Jim Higgins and Mairead McGuinness in the Midlands North West, Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher will look to retain his seat for Fianna Fáil, while Matt Carthy will contest for Sinn Féín. Labour’s intentions in the constituency are not yet clear.

Read: Will Brian Hayes run for Europe? ‘I haven’t made my mind up yet,’ he says

Read: Large constituencies mean European elections ‘will become more presidential’

Read: Parties begin to assess candidates after redrawing of European constituencies

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Hugh O'Connell

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