The national view: Fine Gael and Labour under pressure

Minister Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Minister Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte’s penchant for a colourful turn of phrase prompted more than a few wry smiles, but when the sound bite slipped away, many questions remain about the future for the Labour Party and their embattled leader, Eamon Gilmore.

By Michael Daly

Rabbitte said he did not think if John the Baptist had led the Labour Party into the elections it would have produced any better result. The minister for communications, energy and natural resources said Eamon Gilmore should continue as leader of the Labour Party.

Based on RTÉ exit poll figures, The Labour Party vote appears to have slumped from 19% in the last general election to 7% in the local government election.

Fine Gael’s 36% support in the 2011 general election fell to 24% in the local elections, while Sinn Féin’s support is up from 10% to 16% in the council poll according to RTÉ exit polls.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said what could potentially emerge from elections in the Republic of Ireland was a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin to lead the next government.

Varadkar said there had to be more focus on the alternative Sinn Féin presented. Mr Varadkar said the people had sent the government a message. “They’re hurting from many of the measures that have been introduced in recent years and they want us to do a better job,” he said

The Fine Gael minister said there was a strong element of a protest vote. He said Sinn Féin and Independents were doing very well, but he said the electorate had clearly not settled on an alternative government.

He said they were still giving the present government - a coalition between Fine Gael and Labour - a chance and they wanted them to “continue doing the things we have been doing to restore stability to the country”.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said his party were not concerned with the rise of Sinn Féin, adding that Fianna Fáil were Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the vote for Sinn Féin was a vote for change.

Analyst Sean Gallagher, commenting on the rise of Sinn Féin told RTÉ it was ‘brand Sinn Féin’ as opposed to particular candidates that appeared to be working: “The candidate name does not seem to be that important, the brand name seems enough to bring them through”.

She added it would be a big mistake for the government parties to think they could take their wallop today and that would be the end of it.

Donegal south west TD, Pearse Doherty, commenting on the exit poll figures that point to his party taking a seat in each of the three European constituencies, told RTÉ: “If these figures follow through for us, it will be a big day for us”.

It was announced on Friday that there will be a re-run of the election in the Ballybay-Clones electoral area for Monaghan County Council following the death of a Fine Gael councillor.

Owen Bannigan, 51, who had been a member of Monaghan County Council since 1999, died of a suspected heart attack on Friday afternoon.

The Department of the Environment said that ballots cast in the local election in the Ballybay-Clones electoral area would be destroyed and a new date will be set for voting, so new candidates can be nominated.

*Counting in the European elections get underway tomorrow, Sunday. Counting in the local elections is underway in many areas, but in Donegal begins at 9am on Sunday morning in Buncrana, Letterkenny, Stranorlar, Glenties and Donegal town.


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