Irish Republican News · February 27, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Nominations close as by-election temperature rises
Nominations close as by-election temperature rises

Nominations closed on Wednesday for the two by-elections to be held on 11 March in Meath and North Kildare.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and the party’s Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, joined party councillor Joe Reilly in handing in his nomination papers for the Meath by-election on Wednesday.

Mr Adams said his party was standing on its record in the peace process and seeking an endorsement of Joe Reilly’s contribution, both nationally and locally.

“Sinn Féin is working to bring about change now. We are working to build an alternative to the kind of government which can preside over one of the wealthiest economies in the EU yet fail to provide ordinary citizens with effective public services, in health, in education, transport, housing, youth facilities and childcare,” said Mr Adams

“That means reforming the tax system, investing in social and affordable housing, and having a cohesive public transport system.”

The Progressive Democrats party, led by Mary Harney, has declared the Meath by-election will be a ‘referendum on the peace process’.

And in a foretaste of their strategy for the next general election, the opposition Fine Gael and Labour parties formally announced a voting pact.

Speaking side-by-side to the media, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said they wanted to present voters with “a real alternative” to the present coalition government of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats.

Joe Reilly described the pact between Fine Gael and Labour as “laughable”. Speaking in Meath, he said the two parties “differ on a wide range of political issues including taxation, health, neutrality and the M3 motorway. The two parties couldn’t agree on the colour of milk never mind important political policies.”

POLL-ARISED

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the Independent newspaper group has shown increasing polarisation in the 26-County electorate.

The strongly anti-republican publication, which has been at the forefront of recent political attacks on Sinn Féin, said some 53 per cent of the 1,000 people questioned earlier this week said they were dissatisfied with Mr Adams.

The newspaper trumpeted the news on its front page below a picture of the West Belfast MP, which had been digitally altered to show him partially wearing a balaclava.

Independent Newspapers has characterised Sinn Féin voters as supporters of crime and as criminals on an almost daily basis this week.

Remarkably, however, the party’s ratings have dropped only by a single point, considered statistically insignificant by the pollsters, IMS/Millward Brown.

The poll also showed support for the coalition government remains strong, with an eight-point lead over a possible alternative coalition of Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s ratings are up six points to 61%; support for Fianna Fail is up five points to 42%; and satisfaction with the Government is up six points to 51%.

Mr Adams’s approval among Sinn Féin voters has remained high, but has dropped by some 20% among supporters of other political parties. The greatest fall was among supporters of the Green Party, down from 56 per cent to just 12 per cent.

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, claimed the poll result was a vindication of his position, and suggested it lent support to the exclusion of Sinn Féin from the political process.

“I think [the poll] indicates the degree to which opinion has shifted on this,” he said in London.

He said that he had not yet made up his mind how long he will wait for Sinn Féin to come back with a response to his demands -- for full decommissioning by the Provisional IRA in front of cameras, and a statement declaring an end to its “criminality”.

“We’ve got to make a judgment about that. We can’t wait forever, that’s for sure,” Mr Blair said.

Despite the recent attacks on the party, canvassers in the by-elections have been seeking second preferences from Sinn Féin voters. Reilly’s transfers could be crucial in deciding the final outcome of the Meath by-election.

Reilly, speaking while campaigning at Navan train station, said he believed that Sinn Féin’s core support would remain undimmed. He pointed to republican anger at a series of recent unsubstantiated allegations by political opponents.

“I haven’t seen republicans as angry about anything in almost 20 years,” he said. “Particularly about the Northern Bank robbery where we’ve had allegations thrown around like snuff at awake.

“It’s been a huge motivating factor for republicans. That’s why they’re here on a bitterly cold day in a small train station - we had 20 canvassers out in the snow yesterday.

“They’re coming out in defence of our role in the peace process.”

* In Meath, the candidates are Joe Reilly (Sinn Féin), Fergal O’Byrne (Green), Sirena Campbell (Progressive Democrats), Shane Cassells (Fianna Fail), Dominic Hannigan (Labour), and Shane McEntee (Fine Gael).

Liam O Gogain, a fathers’ rights activist, is also running as an independent.

* In Kildare North, the candidates are Aine Brady (FF), Paddy McNamara (Lab), JJ Power (Green), Darren Scully (FG) and Senator Kate Walsh (PD).

Three independents are running in Kildare North: Catherine Murphy, a left-leaning independent councillor based in Leixlip, Gerry Browne, who failed to secure the Labour nomination, and young hopeful Seanan O Coistin.

© 2005 Irish Republican News