Ireland: Joe Higgins elected as MEP!

Sensational victory for Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland)

Joe Higgins MEP celebrates victory

“Just up. An extra pep in my step. Great day to be a socialist.”

Pat, Sligo

“I just heard the news, I was hoping that you would win the MEP seat, I am absolutely delighted, there is some justice in the world. I just can’t believe it, the media had written you off completely, what a wonderful morning. My day at work is going to be a lot easier after hearing of your stunning victory. Terrific stuff.”

Ger, Cork

“First time I ever voted for a Socialist candidate and look what happens! You were sadly missed in the Dail and I am so pleased you are now going to Europe. Give ‘em hell.”

PJ, Dublin

“Well done Mr. Higgins, not bad for a “failed person” as per “Loo Lah Bertie”. I think we all know who is the “failed person”.


These are just some of the many comments that have come into the Socialist Party office this morning. The last comment reminds us that the discredited former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern once referred to Joe Higgins in the Dail as a “failed person” with a “failed ideology”. How things have changed!

Joe Higgins’ stunning victory in the Dublin Euro Constituency, getting 12.5% of the first preference vote, out polling Sinn Fein and defeating two sitting MEPs, was the final part in a weekend of drama and great election results for the Socialist Party in Ireland.

As well as winning the Euro seat, in the local elections in Fingal, Clare Daly topped the poll in Swords with 3,192 votes (over 20%) and was re-elected; likewise for Joe himself in Castleknock with 3,787 votes (28%). The party got 2,747 votes (nearly 18%) in the Mulhuddart ward, which easily re-elected Ruth Coppinger.

The party got credible votes in all areas but made important gains, getting Terry Kelleher elected to Balbriggan Town Council and Frank Gallagher elected to the council in Drogheda.

Unfortunately our councillor Mick Murphy lost out very narrowly in Tallaght Central in South Dublin, by two hundred votes. The difficulty of getting elected in this altered area was referred to in the last article on this site. The comrades ran an extremely strong campaign and in the Tallaght areas where Mick and the party are based, we got more than 20% of the votes in many areas and polled a very strong 2,159 first preference votes.

In reality Tallaght Central was subsumed into a bigger area as a result of the boundaries changes implemented last summer. That expansion and the swing to Labour made the election difficult, even though we came very close. This is a setback but it is one from which we can and will recover and fully develop our position in the months and years ahead.

Our councillor Mick Barry in Cork was easily re-elected and topped the poll with 2,096 votes, (26.5%) nearly one and a half quotas. Our second candidate in Cork, Dave Keating, got a very credible 5.5% and the profile of the party has been significantly strengthened in the city.

In terms of county councils we are up one in Castleknock and down one in Tallaght but very importantly we achieved two break throughs in important town councils in Balbriggan, north Dublin and Drogheda.

Tight race

The Dublin Euro election was delayed because of a recount. As the early hours ticked by, the tension began to mount. It was clear this battle for the last seat in Dublin was now down to a battle royale between the Socialist Party versus Fianna Fail, the main capitalist party in Ireland and the party of government over the twelve years – between Joe Higgins and Eoin Ryan, former Minister.

Ryan was over 11,000 votes ahead. Sinn Fein’s MEP Mary Lou McDonald, who the Socialist Party had pushed into fifth position in the popular vote, was due for elimination and then her votes would be transferred to Ryan or Higgins or be non transferable, depending on the preferences of the voters. Someone said this is going to come down to the wire. The reply came “this is the wire!”

Of McDonald’s 55429 votes, Joe needed to get a significantly higher rate of transfers than Ryan does if he was to catch him. The indications were that a lot of her votes were not going to transfer to anyone, thereby potentially reducing the pot of votes for Joe to catch Ryan with.

Then the moment came. McDonald’s votes had been allocated and the count was effectively over, we were just waiting for an announcement. Some party members and supporters, as well as Fianna Fail, gathered around the returning officers podium. As that was happening the staff who had done the counting all day, streamed out from behind the barriers on their way home, leaving both groups of supporters to their respective fates in a huge hanger.

If transfers operated in the way expected, everything should be okay for a Joe victory but the possibility that a huge amount of the votes may not transfer could explode that scenario. And then there is always the possibility of the unexpected in proportional representation elections. The returning officer approached the podium.

Through the distorted mike the returning officer announced that Joe Higgins had got an additional 22,201 votes. People tensed as that was on the lower side of what we wanted. Was McDonald’s transfer to Ryan going to put him back in front and make him the winner? When it came out that Ryan got just 5,426, after a few seconds, there was then the realisation that we had indeed done it, that Joe was elected, the first CWI member in the European Parliament. Even though nearly 50% of the votes didn’t transfer, the 4 to 1 ratio meant we were elected with a good surplus of 5,410 votes.

The Local and European elections were a disaster for the governing Fianna Fail and Green parties, and now the administration is very shaky. We will deal with the political and economic situation in Ireland and what the Socialist Party should do now in future articles, but for now we’ll register this historic victory.

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