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Here are 10 things we've learned from the 2014 European elections

Ten out of 11 seats are filled and the make-up of Ireland’s representation in the next European Parliament has been changed utterly.

Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan celebrates her victory in Dublin on Sunday night
Sinn Féin's Lynn Boylan celebrates her victory in Dublin on Sunday night
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE BALLOTS HAVE been counted, the surpluses have been distributed and after a long few days and nights Ireland almost has its 11 MEPs.

Even though a recount is likely in Midlands North-West where Marian Harkin appears to have taken the fourth seat, just 275 votes Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, we can now broadly assess the state of Ireland’s European representation.

While Fine Gael has retained its numbers but changed some its faces, Fianna Fáil appears to have lost out quite badly. Though not as bad as Labour which has been completely wiped out. Sinn Féin is undoubtedly on the rise and independents have also been big winners.

But what have we learned from these European elections. Here’s our take…

1. Sinn Féin has a mandate, but how will they use it? 

By far the most impressive performance of any political party in this election has been Sinn Féin, securing three (four if you include Martina Anderson in NI) seats in the European Parliament.

Given the party had none last time out, this is fantastic achievement. Now attention turns to how its MEPs will use their mandate on the continent. Will they work constructively or be a party of protest? Or is this merely a way of boosting the profiles of potential candidates for Dáil elections?

2. Ming is more popular than we thought

The Roscommon South Leitrim TD has endured his fair share of ridicule over recent years, not least when he admitted to having penalty points cancelled. He appeared an outside bet for a seat in Midlands North-West, but he mounted a seriously effective campaign over the last few weeks and topped the poll. He’s now off to Europe - or the “organ grinder” as he described it earlier this month. But will he come back in two years?

3. There’s no beating Brian Crowley – and there’s no sharing his vote either 

Once more the Fianna Fáil (not that he shouts his affiliation from the rooftops) MEP topped the poll in Ireland South with a huge surplus but this was not enough to benefit running mate Kieran Hartley whose campaign never got off the ground. Hartley freely admitted he was inexperienced when it came to politics and there were several campaign missteps. But Fianna Fáil has learned it would have been better off saving time and money and leaving Crowley as a lone candidate.

4. It’s been a bad European election for Fianna Fáil

Given that Crowley’s support largely comes from his name rather than his party, if Fianna Fáil returns no other MEPs this has been a very bad election for them. In addition to Hartley not benefiting from Crowley’s huge transfers, the strategy of running two candidates in Midlands North-West appears to have failed, splitting the vote and more than likely resulting in no MEPs – barring a recount reprieve for Pat ‘The Cope’.

Mary Fitzpatrick ran a good campaign in Dublin but came up short. It may be the largest party in local government but Fianna Fáil’s imprint on European politics is almost non-existent now.

5. Labour was beaten before it even started

An air of resignation engulfed the Labour European campaign before we even got to polling day. It was more hope than anything else that kept Emer Costello going and she was quick to concede on Sunday night when it became apparent she wouldn’t be retaining the seat won by Pronsias de Rossa in 2009.

Labour Party Conferences Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Phil Prendergast never stood a chance – even when she called for Gilmore to go – while Lorraine Higgins was always fighting an uphill battle. Even some in Fine Gael have mourned the fact there will be no Labour representation on the Socialists and Democrats grouping in Brussels, doing the government’s push for a bank debt deal no favours.

6. The Green revival

Similarly, the lack of any Greens in Europe is also being lamented by politicians and diplomats here for they are a key voting bloc whose influence increases as the planet’s temperature does.

The Green Party fought a good campaign with no money.

At one stage on Sunday night it looked as though the party might have been on course for two seats with Grace O’Sullivan polling strongly in Ireland South. But it wasn’t to be and Eamon Ryan look utterly deflated on Monday when he just fell short of winning a seat. However there’s no doubt the Green Party is on the way back after these elections.

Green Party European Elections Campaigns Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

7. Fine Gael’s strategy worked

There was much head-scratching at the party’s decision to run three candidates in Ireland South after the debacle that saw John Bryan withdraw his name from consideration, but it ultimately worked. Simon Harris came close to pipping Deirdre Clune and joining Seán Kelly in Europe. He ran a strong campaign and will almost certainly be in line for a junior ministry.

Meanwhile, in Midlands North-West, the leadership seemed to be against Jim Higgins running again but he did do his job in terms of transferring massively to the successful Mairead McGuinness. Four seats out of 12 going into this election becomes four seats out of 11 coming out of it – a good return for the largest party in the State.

8. Independents have made their mark 

In addition to the election of Ming and Nessa Childers, who did remarkably well on transfers in the capital, there was a notably strong performances from the likes of Diarmuid O’Flynn in Ireland South. The ‘Ballyhea Says No’ campaigner polled strongly and can be proud of his efforts. Similarly Rónán Mullen put in a credible performance in MNW.

9. Marian Harkin continues to defy the odds

Though her seat is not certain yet the independent MEP has done remarkably well this time around, again when she was up against parties with more resources and more capable of covering the enormous constituency.

screenshot.1401267502.25292 Source: www.thejournal.ie

Harkin told us earlier this year she had little to no resources but she stretched them as far as she could and looks on course to take a seat.

10. Surely there’s a better way than this…

If there is to be a full recount in Midlands North-West then it could be the weekend before we know who the final MEP is in that constituency – a full week or more after counting began.

Surely there is an easier way than this? In the early hours of Monday morning at the RDS, one red-eyed MEP hopeful spoke of bringing in e-voting but staggering the results to retain the excitement. We’d rather just get it over with.

Read: Check out all our Election 2014 coverage here > 

Read: Here are 9 things we learned from the 2014 local elections

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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