Sunday

28th Nov 2021

Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll

  • The Green party won by a landslide in the Irish capital (Photo: Giuseppe Milo)

Ireland's Green party scored high in EU elections on Friday (24 May), in the second pro-European exit poll in the 2019 vote.

Irish people also voted to relax divorce laws in a referendum the same day in a closer embrace of liberal values.

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The Green party was on course to win three out of Ireland's 13 MEP seats after coming from nowhere, according to an exit poll by Red C for Irish broadcaster RTE out on Friday evening.

The Green candidate, Ciaran Cuffe, won Dublin by a landslide with 23 percent of the vote, the poll, which had a margin of error of 4 percent, said.

The ruling party, the liberal-conservative Fine Gael of Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar, also did well, winning two regions, the poll added.

They shared the field with the conservative Fianna Fail party, the nationalist Sinn Fein party, and several independent candidates.

The Greens also surged from almost zero to 9 percent in a parallel vote on local councils the same day, in a sign of a deeper shift in voters' priorities.

The voting took place during a schoolchildren's climate strike in some Irish towns, as part of a wider European movement.

Irish people, likewise on Friday, voted by a whopping 87 percent to let couples divorce after two years of living apart.

The referendum marked another step toward liberalism by the formerly Roman Catholic society, which legalised same-sex marriage and abortion in the past four years.

The Irish EP outcome was also the second pro-European exit poll after Dutch socialists appeared to come out on top in The Netherlands on Thursday.

EU countries are voting over four days this weekend, with the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malta, and Slovakia due next on Saturday.

But the official results and most other exit polls are being kept under wraps until Sunday evening, when all 28 member states have finished voting.

The EP election comes amid concern that far-right parties might climb to new heights of power.

Ireland does not have far-right or eurosceptic parties like the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands or The Brexit Party in the UK, which also voted on Thursday.

But the Greens' Irish triumph could be a sign of shifting ground in European politics.

Voters in France and Germany also told a recent poll that climate change was a bigger worry for them than migration - the main subject of the far-right National Rally and AfD parties there.

Meanwhile, the Irish elections took place in the shadow of Brexit.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, resigned in tears on Friday morning, increasing the risk of a no-deal British EU departure in October.

A disorderly exit could reimpose a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, stirring up sectarian tension, but the Irish EP vote saw little extremist rhetoric.

The low turnout in Ireland was less promising, however.

Just 31 percent of people took part in Dublin, and figures fell as low as 14 percent in some regions, compared to 52 percent overall in 2014.

Low turnouts tend to favour radical candidates, as Slovakia, which had the lowest level of participation - just 13 percent - the last time round, prepares to vote on Saturday.

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Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans looks like the big winner in the first exit poll from the 2019 European Parliament election. British voters also cast their ballots amid predictions their prime minister is about to fall.

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