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Sinn Féin's Chris MacManus and Michelle Gildernew in Castlebar Diarmuid Pepper/The Journal
Not optimistic

Sinn Féin ‘resigned’ to not winning a seat in Midlands-North-West as count continues

Michelle Gildernew said she is ‘not overly optimistic’ that she can overtake Ciaran Mullooly.


SINN FÉIN CANDIDATES vying for a seat in the European Parliament in the Midlands-North-West constituency have said they are “resigned” to not winning a seat.

In total, 27 candidates stood for the five seats across the massive 15 county constituency, where a final result is expected tomorrow at the earliest.

Hundreds of count staff have been processing around 700,000 ballots for the region at the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar, Co Mayo since Sunday, after votes were cast Friday.

It seems assured that incumbents Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Maria Walsh, as well as sitting TD Barry Cowen and Fine Gael’s Nina Carberry, will take seats.

Outside of this top four, former RTÉ correspondent Ciaran Mullooly has a lead of around 12,000 on the next nearest competitor, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew.

However, Gildernew told reporters today in Castlebar that she is “resigned” to not winning a seat.

“It’s not over until the last count has been completed,” said Gildernew, who noted that she once won an election by a single vote.

However, she added: “We didn’t get the result we wanted, we’re still in the mix, but I’m not overly optimistic that I can overtake Ciaran Mullooly, he will probably scrape in with the last seat.”

She added that she doesn’t regret her decision to run in the European elections, nor her decision to not contest the upcoming UK general election.

“Every time you run in an election, you’re taking a chance,” said Gildernew.

“I don’t regret the decision that I’ve made.”

Referencing the loss of her nephew Fiachra Ó Faoláin earlier this month after getting into difficulty in a Co Tyrone lake, Gildernew remarked: “This is a setback but it is definitely not a tragedy; I know what that feels like this week.”

She added that Sinn Féin is keen for a general election and that the Irish government has run out of steam, and noted that she will quickly shift to trying to elect Pat Cullen to the Westminster seat she currently holds.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Chris McManus said the size of the constituency makes it difficult for candidates and that it can be difficult to engage with voters.

He called for the constituencies to be changed to “give them their own sense of identity”.

MacManus was co-opted into the European Parliament when Matt Carthy was elected to the Dáil in 2020.

He pointed to the “difficulty in having not come through a previous European Election” and remarked that “name and face recognition is a massive asset to have”.

When asked about Nina Carberry – a candidate who certainly does have name and face recognition – MacManus said that while the electorate has to be respected, “maybe there is an issue there to be addressed” for people like himself in showing people the importance of the work of incumbent MEPs.

MacManus said it’s time for Sinn Féin to “review what happened and listen to what the electorate have been saying to us” and that the party will then look towards who will be the candidates for the next general election.

However, also speaking in Castlebar, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty claimed that “we’re not out of the race here yet in Midlands-North-West”.

“It’s impossible to say because we have no read as to where these transfers are going, and in Dublin, the transfers seem to be going all over the place,” said Doherty.

“I’ve been at enough counts where I’ve thought that candidates are out of the race only to find them hoisted shoulder high later on in the night, and vice versa.”

IMG_5549 Pearse Doherty at the count in Castlebar Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal / The Journal

He added that he has no interest in becoming next Sinn Féin leader.

Aontú leader and former Sinn Féin member Peadar Tóibín yesterday said he had been speaking to Sinn Féin members at count centres who had been calling for Doherty to be leader.

“Mary Lou McDonald will provide positive leadership and energetic leadership running into the next general election,” said Doherty, “there is absolutely no doubt in my mind in relation to that.”

Meanwhile, Senator Niall Blaney made what he called a “flying visit” to Castlebar and acknowledged that “it’s extremely unlikely I’ll be elected”.

He said party colleague Barry Cowen “will need transfers from both myself and Lisa Chambers to get over the line but he should do so comfortably.”

When asked if Fianna Fáil got their campaign wrong in running three candidates, Blaney said “it is what it is”.

“I’m not a man who holds grudges,” said Blaney, “I say what I have to say, when I need to say it, and I’ve done that.”

IMG_5544 Niall Blaney speaking outside the count centre in Castlebar Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal / The Journal

When quizzed on his public row with Micheál Martin and himself at the press conference to launch the party’s European election manifesto, Blaney remarked: “I’ve said what I had to say and made my reasons for doing so at the time.

“People have made their own analysis of that since. It is what it is and I’ll see where I go from here.”

He added that he won’t be running for a seat in the Dáil as “we only have room for one Dáil seat in Donegal”, which is currently held by Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue.

“It’s time to step back and analyse everything over the coming weeks and see where I go from here personally.”

Blaney added that he would “consider” running again for the Seanad again.

His party colleague, Senator Lisa Chambers, has also said she is “still in the mix”, though it appears very doubtful she could get over the line.

The counting process in Castlebar is expected to last until well into the night, with eight candidates eliminated so far.

However, it appears that it will be tomorrow at the earliest before the seats are officially filled.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.


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