Doherty in race for Euro seat

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty has emerged as a serious contender for the Northwest constituency in next month's European Parliament elections.

Fianna Fail are sure of one of three available seats, but a feud between Donegal-based Jim McDaid and Galway-based Sean O Neachtain could let Doherty grab the third seat, according to a new poll.

On the basis of this poll for the Irish Examiner, which has a 5% margin of error, the order of the candidates seems to have reversed with McDaid at 18% in the driving seat and O Neachtain at 15%.

But also in the neck-and-neck contest are Independent Marian Harkin (16%), Doherty of Sinn Fein (15%) and Jim Higgins of Fine Gael (14%).

Support for sitting MEP and former Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon, has plummeted to 7%, less than half of the 16% levels she achieved to win her seat in 1999.

Tensions have boiled over in Fianna Fail as the party leadership continues to support McDaid over O Neachtain. McDaid was put forward as the Fianna Fail candidate on Irish television's 'Questions & Answers' political discussion programme, which was being broadcast from O Neachtain's Galway base.

Meanwhile, McDaid launched an attack on government colleague, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, who he said was boosting support for Sinn Fein with his strident allegations of criminality within the party, at the expense of Fianna Fail.

Sinn Fein Director of Elections Pat Doherty said that McDaid's admission of the real agenda behind Michael McDowell's attacks on the party confirmed the party's belief that this was always about the upcoming elections.

"For months now we have seen Michael McDowell engage in almost daily attacks on Sinn Fein," he said. "We have always said that these attacks were about the upcoming elections and the increasing numbers of people who support our agenda for change in the peace process, in local communities, in Leinster House and the Assembly and in Europe. And last night a senior government Minister admitted that this was the case.

"Dr. Jim McDaid also clearly acknowledged by his comments that many in Fianna Fail are deeply unhappy about the PD tail wagging the Fianna Fail dog particularly in matters relating to the peace process and Irish unity."

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