Labour look like being big losers to Sinn Fein
LABOUR looks set to suffer a trouncing at the polls on Friday with a real danger that it could lose both its European Parliament seats.
The latest opinion polls suggest Sinn Fein is likely to gain from Labour's loss, while Fi-anna Fail is failing to capital-ise on voters' disgruntlement with Fine Gael.
The Republic has a total of 11 seats in three constituencies for Friday's European elections.
Labour's predicted poor performance is expected to put renewed pressure on Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to relinquish his leadership.
Ireland South MEP Phil Prendergast left Mr Gilmore embarrassed when she called for his resignation following poor poll results at the start of the campaign.
An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI polls published yesterday indicated that Ms Prendergast and Midlands-North-West candidate Senator Lorraine Higgins are unlikely to perform, while sitting MEP Emer Costello will have to battle hard with Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan for the third Dublin seat.
An Independent/Millward Brown poll suggested that Labour's support remained at just six per cent while a separate Red C poll put the party at eight per cent.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, widely tipped as a future Labour leader, yesterday insisted that Mr Gilmore had her "full confidence''.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte also defended the party, claiming Labour was "taking 81 per cent of the criticism'' for the govern-ment's cost cutting measures and tax hikes during the economic downturn.
In an apparent dig at Sinn Fein, Mr Rabbitte added: "There are other parties out there who have a soundbite for everything but they don't have a plan for anything.''
If the polls are accurate Sinn Fein looks poised to have three new MEPs after Friday, with Lynn Boylan currently sitting at 23 per cent in Dublin, Matt Carthy at 15 per cent in Midlands-North-West and Liadh Ni Riada at 19 per cent in the South constituency.
The party has had its challenges - the arrest of leader Gerry Adams by PSNI officers investigating the 1972 murder of Belfast mother Jean McConville - but voter dissatisfaction with other parties appears to outweigh historic events.
Fine Gael is also bearing the brunt of people's anger with the new property tax and impending water charges - with just 20 per cent support, according to Millward Brown - but its candidates look set to fare better than their Labour counterparts.
Sean Kelly is expected to retain his seat with 13 per cent support in South while at 8 per cent Deirdre Clune could secure the constituency's fourth seat if transfers from expected poll-topper Brian Crowley are in her favour.
Junior minister Brian Hayes has 22 per cent in Dublin and sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness is expected to top the poll in Midlands-Mid-West with researchers putting her at 18 per cent.
Fianna Fail is still failing to capitalise on anti-government feeling in the Republic, with Millward Brown placing them at 21 per cent support, two points behind main rivals Sinn Fein.
However, Brian Crowley, the Republic's longest serving MEP, is expected to retain his seat with ease, performing at 31 per cent in the Ipsos MRBI poll for the South while Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher will probably hold onto his seat for Midlands-North-West, if he can keep Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan at bay, and Mary Fitzpatrick is in with a solid chance in Dublin at 12 per cent.
Meanwhile, after suffering near-annihilation in the 2011 general elections, which saw it losing all its Dail seats, the Green Party could make a tentative return, with Grace O'Sullivan on seven per cent in the South while Eamon Ryan could scrape in with 10 per cent in Dublin.
* BLEAK OUTLOOK: Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore is facing a tough election if polls are to be believed. It could put him under more pressure like that when party colleague Phil Prendergast left, called for him to step down weeks ago.