Voting is already underway in the European elections in Ireland, with the governing Fianna Fáil party in the South and the SDLP in the North both facing losses.

Polling began today on twelve offshore islands, who traditionally vote first in elections in the 26 Counties in order to avoid heavy weather delaying the return of ballot boxes.

Tomorrow, polling opens in the North for the three European parliament seats north of the border, where Sinn Féin expects to gain a seat at the expense of the rival nationalist SDLP.

Party President Gerry Adams has predicted that Sinn Féin will win at least two European seats, one on each side of the border, and break into mainstream politicvs with huge local election gains south of the border.

“Sinn Féin is increasingly seen as the only real alternative,” he said.

“There is a mood for change out there but there is no room for apathy and complacency.”

The party has vowed to make history and send an all-Ireland team to the EU parliament in Brussels to represent Ireland on a 32-county basis.

“This is going to be a good election for Sinn Féin, a very, very solid election,” Mr Adams added.

Sinn Féin is the only republican party to contest the European elections and has become a threatr to the larger mainstream parties. The party is promising to double and threatening to triple its representation at council level, while the smaller Republican Sinn Féin grouping are also contesting council seats gains.

All the opposition parties have predicted the Dublin government will receive more than a slap on the wrist from the elctorate when the results are tallied.

Mr Adams appealed to people to come out in strength on Friday and use their vote to create change.

“In the course of this campaign I have travelled the length and breath of the country and one of the most striking things I have observed is that people who traditionally voted for other parties are now going to join with the thousands of people right across Ireland who already trust Sinn Féin with their vote. They are doing this because they want change, they want to be listened to and they want to be represented by a political party which will respect their vote.

“People are responding to our message that they can change things. Sinn Féin is increasingly seen as the only real alternative. We are calling on people to support our vision of a Europe of equals, to protect neutrality, to oppose privatisation and allow us to advance our agenda for change in Ireland and Europe.”

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