FAMILIAR FACE MEP Luke Ming Flanagan, pictured at the count centre in Castlebar on Sunday, thought the rise of Sinn Féin hindered Saoirse McHugh’s chance of taking a seat. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has said that the rise of Sinn Féin definitely affected the vote of the Green Party’s Saoirse McHugh in Mayo.
The Ireland North-West MEP, who canvassed for McHugh during the campaign, said that an appetite for an alternative was palpable at the doorsteps and was key to Sinn Féin’s general election success.
“I canvassed in nine different counties over the last three weeks … the amount of people out there that said they were voting for Sinn Féin … that said they were just sick of either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil [was enormous].”
Flanagan commended McHugh’s electoral performance despite being unable to take one of the four available seats.
“I think it’s undeniable that the rise of Sinn Féin did eat into [her] vote. I think today maybe Saoirse mightn’t be feeling so good. But I think when the dust settles and she looks at the vote that she has got, especially with the rise of Sinn Féin at the same time and being in a rural part of Ireland, it’s as good a vote as anyone has gotten today. But hopefully, she’ll stick at it and hopefully she’ll come back again.”
Flanagan said that Fine Gael’s message about the strength of the economy did not resonate while many people were struggling. He said the number of household names in Sinn Féin’s front bench helped their message to resonate with voters.
“They have names that roll of people’s tongues. They have Pearse Doherty in finance, they have Louise O’Reilly in health they have Eoin Ó Broin in housing. Who did they have to compete against them big-name wise?”
He also cited Fine Gael’s controversial RIC commemoration plans as being a factor that might have swayed people in the past few months.
“You wouldn’t want to underestimate Fine Gael’s mistake on attempting to celebrate the Black and Tans. People might say: ‘Well that wouldn’t have made much of a difference’, but it’s small little things like that that change people’s minds.”
Flanagan said that Sinn Féin would be making an unwise move to go into government with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael but said that they should talk to both parties first.
“I think it would be stupid for Sinn Féin to go into government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. However I also think it would be stupid not to negotiate with them to see what kind of a deal they can do.”
In the event that no government could be formed, the former TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim said that Sinn Féin would win more seats if they ran more candidates in the next General Election.
“The message would be: ‘Well we want to be in power, we tried to be in power, we didn’t get the change that we were looking for, so there’s only one way to get change and that’s if we go back again to the electorate and get enough seats so that we don’t need Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael’, and I think that’s what going to happen.”