Analysis Voices of Europe | Ireland

A parties’ trial of strength ahead of next year’s general election

The European Parliament elections will be overshadowed by local politics, with the republican party Sinn Féin expected to ride on its recent polling and success in Northern Ireland – something that could signal a wider shift in Irish and European politics.

Published on 28 March 2024 at 09:00
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The man strolled cheerily out of the polling station, his 10-year-old son’s hand clasped in his. It was a bright summer afternoon in a leafy Dublin suburb. He, and just half of eligible voters, were casting ballots on a referendum to change the Irish Constitution, and on local and European Parliament candidates.

Would he, I asked, like to tell Irish Times readers how he voted?

Our man responded readily, launching into a rationale for his pick of councillors…

“What about MEPs?” the Brussels correspondent ventured.

“Oh….” He looked puzzled, and turned to his son. “How did we … you … vote?”

European Parliament (EP) elections in Ireland are what political scientists call “second order” elections. Voters do not take them or the parliament seriously, despite its enhanced powers in recent years. So, unsurprisingly, voting could be entrusted to a 10-year-old.

Voters have to be enticed even to turn out to vote by the running of other more consequential ballots on the same day. In 2019, 49.95% turned out overall.

The 2024 Europeans are no different – parties will mobilise turnout for the locals on the same day, hoping incidentally to boost their nominees for Strasbourg. The lower the poll, the greater the chance for a maverick independent…


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