Concern that Irish voters in Britain may opt for UKIP
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Concern that Irish voters in Britain may opt for UKIP

IRISH candidates running in tomorrow’s local and European elections have expressed their concern that UKIP may attract votes from emigrants.

Britain goes to the polls tomorrow after an election campaign dominated by immigration issues and the rise of the Nigel Farage led party.

Candidates also told the Irish Post that issues which have been making headlines nationally, such as immigration, have not been raised on the doorsteps.

“We are a product of emigration and I would be concerned about Irish people voting for UKIP,” said Jonathan O’Dea, who is running in the council elections for Labour in Waltham Forest.

Another Irish candidate, who did not wish to be named, said he believes Irish voters no longer see themselves as a part of any emigrant grouping.

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They said: “The Irish community are long established here; highly integrated into the UK community. You are talking mostly about a settled community here since the 50s and 60s and a second generation community. This community doesn’t necessarily see themselves as an immigrant community because of that level of integration."

He added: “Immigration is a major topic in the UK and Ireland. The kind of voters UKIP is attracting in the UK…yes, I think they are penetrating [the Irish vote]."

As well as expressing shared concern over UKIP’s so-called ‘one policy party agenda’ a number of Irish candidates said they expected the party to pick-up protest votes for their anti- European stance.

In Camberwell, Labour candidate Tom Flynn said: “There is an element of UKIP for Europe and Labour for the locals – which is something of a protest vote.”

Mr Flynn views his constituency as a battleground between Labour and the Liberal Democrats but speaking about the wider threat posed by UKIP he said: “They haven’t run out of momentum yet and yes, it would be a concern.”

There is also concern among Irish candidates that a Nigel Farage inspired vote may see UKIP gain a legitimate platform for anti-immigration rhetoric.

But Michael Whelton, a Labour candidate in Merton, said he did not expect UKIP to pick up Irish voters based on his experience out canvassing.

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“Their rhetoric would not appeal to Irish people as an emigrant community,” he said.

He added: “I think they will do well in Europe – more in a protest vote. But when push comes to shove on the big issues, their vote often collapses.

“I don’t agree that immigration is the main issue; bread and butter issues are the focus in terms of the local elections.”

While Patrick Harte, running for the Liberal Democrats in Crouch End echoed this views and said he hasn’t met one Irish person on his beat that has indicated they will be voting UKIP.

He pointed out however that there was a distinction between London and the rest of Britain in terms of support for the party.