The Dublin government has been strongly criticised for its handling of the presidency of the European Union by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
“The Irish presidency of the EU was another real opportunity to put issues raised by the Irish people on the European agenda,” Mr Adams said at the launch of his party’s campaign for the European elections. “The Government could have acted to protect neutrality. They could have acted to demand that Irish is recognised as an official EU language.
“They could have acted to address a wide range of concerns about the growing lack of democracy within the EU. But the Irish presidency is almost over and the Government have spent the entire time transfixed by the effort to secure a deal on the proposed EU Constitution, even if such a deal means a further dilution of Irish sovereignty,” he said.
Mr Adams also said he believed Sinn Féin had a realistic chance of becoming the first party to capture seats on both sides of the Border.
Former Six-County Health Minister Bairbre de Brun is expected to take her party’s first-ever seat in the North, while in the 26 Counties, the party has a real chance of securing a seat in Dublin.
Mr Adams said: “Sinn Féin is asking voters in all parts of this island to return an all-Ireland team of MEPs to Europe. Our message is simple - a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for an alternative, for a working voice in Europe, it is a vote for the peace process, it is a vote for neutrality, it is a vote for equality and change.”
Mr. Adams said the party could deliver “truly national representation” in the EU Parliament for the first time.
“We want a Europe of equals. We take the same approach to the European Union as we do to the peace process and building for Irish unity. We will engage, campaign and bring forward alternative policies. We will take on those vested interests who want a federal Europe to act in the interests of big business.”
According to the latest opinion poll published on Saturday, Sinn Féin is at 9% in the East and Northwest constituencies, and 6% in the South. However, polls have routinely underestimated support for Sinn Féin on both sides of the border.
In Dublin, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald at 11% is said to be in a battle for the last seat with the Green Party’s Patricia McKenna at 10% and Fianna Fail’s Eoin Ryan at 13%.
Transfers from Socialist Joe Higgins and Labour’s second candidate could prove decisive in the final elimination.
Meanwhile, Bairbre de Brun today held out the possiblity of two non-unionist candidates being returned in the June 10 election in the North, and said her party was willing to enter into talks about a voting pact to prevent the Ulster Unionist Party retaining its seat at the expense of the rival nationalist SDLP.
The Six Counties have traditionally returned two unionist MEPs and one nationalist in every European Election since the first contest in 1979.
“Without taking voters for granted, we think we are in a strong position to take a seat,” Ms de Brun said.
“There is an outside chance of the third seat going to a non unionist. Given the shredding of the electoral register and other factors that looks like it is an outside chance.
“We’re in this election going to maximise the campaign to get a Sinn Féin team, an all-Ireland team into Europe. We have always stated in the past that we are open to an electoral pact.
“We are open to talking to others if that is what others want. That has always been rejected by others in the past ...
“Our focus today has to be to ask people to vote for Sinn Féin but if people want to transfer after that to the SDLP or other parties, then they can do so.”