SUNDAY 31/08/2003 08:45:44 UTV (see links)
SF election nominees announced

Sinn Fein have the potential to send a team of MPs to the European parliament from both sides of the Irish border, the party claimed last night. By:Press Association

Party chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said Sinn Fein`s vote should continue to grow in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic at the European Parliament elections next year.

The former Stormont Assembly Member made the claim after announcing three colleagues would seek next week the nomination to be the party`s Munster candidate in the Irish Republic.

The field for the Munster selection convention next Saturday will be Cork councillor Jonathan O`Brien, Nancy Irwin from Limerick and David Cullinane from Waterford.

Mr McLoughlin, who has decided not to contend next year`s European election north of the border, said: ``The next 12 months are likely to be dominated by events in Europe as the Irish government prepares to take over the presidency of the European Union, the possibility of an EU referendum and election to the European Parliament.

Sinn Fein has already chosen Marylou McDonald to contest the Dublin seat and she is hotly tipped to win. The election convention for Munster will take place next Saturday and in the Six Counties (Northern Ireland) early next week.

``I would like to wish the people contesting the Munster convention well.

``With preparations for the European elections well under way Sinn Fein can make real and significant growth.

``For the first time ever, next June, Sinn Fein has the potential to take several seats in the European elections and to send to Europe for the first time ever an all-Ireland team.``

Sinn Fein will be hoping to build on last year`s General Election successes in the Irish Republic which saw the party increase its number of TDs from one to five.

The party also has high hopes for its candidate north of the border having overtaken its rival, the SDLP in the 2001 Westminster and local government elections in the battle for the popular vote within nationalism.

Mr McLoughlin had been expected to run next year in Northern Ireland after he narrowly missed out on becoming an MEP in 1999.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams confirmed the former Foyle MLA had not put his name forward because he wants to concentrate on the development of the party next year on both sides of the border.

Former Stormont Health Minister Bairbre de Brun and the former chairman of the Assemblies Finance and Personnel Committee, Francie Malloy, are seeking the party`s nomination in Northern Ireland instead.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume has confirmed that he is defending his seat again for the SDLP and Democratic Unionist leader the rev Ian Paisley will be hoping to continue his tradition of topping the poll in every European Parliament election in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein is likely to argue during the Northern Ireland campaign that it is not targeting Mr Hume`s seat in the three seater constituency but instead it believes there is a real chance of a second nationalist seat.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson narrowly edged out Mr McLoughlin in the 1999 contest.

West Belfast MP Mr Adams will attend next Saturday`s selection convention in Limerick for the Munster candidate.

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