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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with former SDLP leader Mark Durkan. Leah Farrell
mark durkan

Fine Gael European election candidate says May vote can send 'green jersey' message to Brexiteers

The former SDLP leader says he knows voting for a Northern Ireland voice is a big ask for Dublin people.

FORMER LEADER OF the SDLP party, Mark Durkan, is to run as a Fine Gael candidate in the European elections.

He will contest a seat in the Dublin constituency, alongside former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Flanked by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Fitzgerald at a press conference today, Durkan was described as a man to offer “leadership for city, country and Northern Ireland”. 

Dublin issues 

During the course of the press event, Durkan was fielded a number of questions about Dublin issues, such as the MetroLink. The former SDLP leader was asked whether he had familiarised himself with such issues, seeing as he is running in the Dublin constituency. 

He was unable to name four streets in the capital earlier today and admitted that he will remain living in the North.

He replied that he had not arrived at today’s press event under some “falsehood” that he is all “schooled up” on the obvious questions that relate to Dublin. Instead, he said: 

I am standing on basis of who I am and not who I am pretending to be.

Durkan said he is standing on the basis of his experience, and not on answers that he will cram to learn in an attempt to “pull off some bluff”. 

He said Dublin people care about Northern Ireland issues, adding that many Dublin people “resent” the way “in which Brexit has been imposed on their fellow citizens in the north”. 

Varadkar said his decision to ask him to run had nothing to do with domestic politics. 

“Instead of a border poll, I’m asking the people of Dublin to cast a much more meaningful vote,” said the Taoiseach, stating he wanted to people to vote “as if there was no border”. 

Northern Ireland 

Durkan said today that Varadkar is following through on his promise that the people of Northern Ireland will not be left behind following Brexit. 

“I recognise this is a big ask for the people of Dublin,” he said, adding that people of the North will have lost their voices in the EU parliament, but if he is elected he will ensure all voices are heard, both north and south. 

“I’m here because I received what I regarded as a bold, and genuine, and brilliant invitation by the Taoiseach and by Fine Gael,” said Durkan.  

“I am not running against Fianna Fáil (who recently announced a policy partnership with the SDLP) or Labour,” said Durkan. He said he hoped that the people of Dublin look at the upcoming European elections as one that has national importance. 

This election is an opportunity for voters to make the 24th May a “green jersey day” that can send a message to the Brexiteers.

During the press conference, Varadkar revealed Durkan was considered to fill the Seanad seat, which was eventually taken by Ian MarshalL. The seat was on the agricultural panel and as he’s an “urban Derry dweller” Durkan said he wasn’t the right fit for the job.

The last two Irish European election candidates elected in the South constituency and the Dublin constituency will not be able to take up their seats in the European Parliament until the UK has left the EU.

When asked about how irked he would be if he was left in limbo, Durkan said he understood that two MEPs could effectively be left in “quarantine” until after the Brexit stalemate is sorted out, but we should not “distract ourselves with ifs and buts”. 

Fitzgerald was asked if she believes her chances in Europe will be clouded by the circumstances surrounding her resignation. The former Tánaiste said her record over the years “is the lens through which people will judge me, not any particular incident”. 

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