Political signs point to an independents day

World of Politics with Harry McGee

As the country goes to the poll to elect our European and Council representatives, there were a couple of recurring themes – and a few weathervanes that might be interpreted as predictions!

First off, as expected, migration was a huge issue

Up to now – unlike other EU countries, the right had never much of a presence here, perhaps because Ireland was a predominantly monoethnic country. But over the last 20 years, the number of migrants who have come to live in Ireland has been substantial. The vast majority arrived on work visas and immigration visas and have fitted almost seamlessly into the fabric of the country.

But over 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine to Ireland and a significant upsurge in asylum seekers has changed all that. And we have seen the emergence of three different strands in politics, all negative towards migrants.

There are the fringe right-wing agitators and parties who use shock tactics – including in-yer face propaganda videos as well as boycotts and blockades. All are posted on social media and shared. These are the ultranationalists, some of whom are fascist, some of whom are out-and-out racists.

Then there is the so-called common sense right; right-of-centre parties and groups whose main messages are around clamping down on migration and deporting any migrant who has failed in an application or who has arrived without papers.

And there are the conventional centrist parties (including left of centre Sinn Féin) who have taken tougher stances, in response to a discernible change in public sentiment – some of which have derived from the high-profile blockades and protests.

Over a third of the 73 candidates are majoring on migrant messages of one hue or another.

Secondly, the campaign itself matters because most people only make up their minds in the final few days. The Irish Times ran an opinion poll at the start of the campaign suggesting that each of the three parties would take a seat each in the three constituencies, with the others going to Independents and smaller parties.

Pictured: Front-runner…Luke Ming Flanagan, pictured here from some time back when he was lobbying with the turf cutters in Ballinasloe.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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