Ireland's upstart immigration sceptics looked set to gain a surprise two MEP seats, based on a recent analysis. (EPA-EFE/BRYAN MEADE)

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Irish immigration sceptics predicted to pick up seats in European Parliament

Upstart populist party Independent Ireland is projected to win up to two seats as a result of the June 7 vote.


Ireland’s upstart immigration sceptics looked set to gain a surprise two MEP seats, based on a recent analysis.

Dublin political commentator Keith Mills told Brussels Signal that the populist Independent Ireland (II) party would likely be the European Parliament election’s big winner in the country.

The new group had put out “strong messaging” regarding “protecting rural Ireland from the excesses of climate mitigation, a bit like the Dutch farmers’ movement”, said Mills.

The party is fielding three MEP candidates – one in each of Ireland’s three distinct electoral constituencies — as well as 60 councillor candidates for the country’s local elections, which are also taking place alongside the EP vote.

Unlike most European Union Member States, Ireland does not operate a nationwide list system for electing representatives, opting instead for a proportional representation system where individuals get to pick from MEP hopefuls running in their local area.

Under the forecasts, Ciaran Mullooly — a former correspondent for the country’s primary state-funded broadcaster — appeared likely to win an MEP seat for II in the Midlands North-West constituency.

Another professional journalist, late-night radio talk show host, Niall Boylan, also appears likely to pick up a seat for the party in Dublin.

Mullooly claimed he was winning support based on his backing of farmers in the West of Ireland and his “track record of 30 years as a volunteer in community development”.

The party is also in contention for a seat in Ireland South, where former farming association official Eddie Punch appears to be closing in on sitting Independents for Change MEP, Mick Wallace.

Having made a name for himself across Europe for his heterodox positions on Russia, China and the Ukraine war, the left-wing politician now looks in danger of losing his seat. The same goes for his colleague Clare Daly, who risks losing a tight race in Dublin.

Reflecting trends across Europe, the Green Party appears likely to lose both of its two MEPs in the election, with Mills predicting the party will also haemorrhage half of its councillors after what he called a “poor campaign”.

Dublin’s current Green Party MEP Ciáran Cuffe “benefited from the ‘green tide’ in 2019”, he said.

“But that has now receded, so they could lose both MEPs and half their councillors.”

The governing Fine Gael party also seemed likely to lose three of its five seats.

This is despite the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Simon Harris campaigning vigorously alongside sitting Fine Gael candidate Maria Walsh in Midlands North-West, as well as her party colleague Senator Regina Doherty in Dublin.

His efforts have not been for nothing, with the extra push appearing to have buoyed both Walsh and Doherty in the polls.

“I think Fine Gael thought they could hold their two seats in Midlands North-West, but when that became unlikely, they went all in behind Walsh,” Mills explained, adding that the party seemed to have ditched another Fine Gael hopeful running in the region.

Doherty has specifically targeted the Green Party — despite it being a coalition partner of her group — picking a particularly high-profile fight with its leader Eamon Ryan, currently Ireland’s transport minister.

She likened new cycle lanes in Dublin City to the Berlin Wall, telling the Irish Mail on Sunday that the infrastructure had turned the city into a “spaghetti junction”.

There was now a need to “combat the over-mighty Greens in Europe”, she added.

It has been far from a smooth campaign for the government. Harris faced heckles on the campaign trail from protesters in County Mayo towns Westport and Castlebar over state provision of asylum-seeker accommodation in the county.

It has also been a difficult time for Left group member Sinn Féin.

Having been by far the country’s most popular party for a period of months, its polling collapsed during the EP election campaign, seemingly in part due to its failure to capitalise on the migration issue.

“There is a scenario where Sinn Féin don’t hold their seat in Midlands North-West, and don’t regain a seat in Dublin, and that could be curtains for [party head] Mary-Lou McDonald,” Mills said.

The party is nevertheless expected to win three seats, up by one compared to 2019.