FIANNA Fáil is facing serious losses in the European and local elections on Friday, with evidence mounting of an antigovernment mood among voters after a campaign dominated by bitter personality disputes.

Fine Gael has bounced back from its disastrous showing in the last general election and is now in with a chance of winning more seats in the European Parliament than Fianna Fáil.

Labour is also on course for a good result in the European and local elections, while Sinn Féin is on the verge of a serious breakthrough in local government and should at least double, and maybe even treble, its number of councillors.

With opinion polls showing FF down by between 8% and 12% on the general election, losses at council level are inevitable and the party is set to lose at least one of its six Euro seats and possibly two.

The party is facing even more damaging losses in the council elections, particularly in Dublin.

FG looks set to hold its four Euro seats and has a prospect of gaining an extra one despite the reduction in the number of Irish seats from 15 to 13. The party is also on course to get around 25% of the vote in the local elections.

With Labour likely to get between 13% and 15% of the vote in the local elections, the combined FG/Labour vote will be significantly ahead of FF for the first time in almost two decades.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte claimed yesterday that voters were sick and tired of the current government. "I now detect a palpable sense of anger that I have rarely experienced before, " he said.

Meanwhile, Bertie Ahern was attacked strongly last night after it was revealed he had sent a memorandum to diplomatic and consular staff urging them to vote Yes in the citizenship referendum and for FF candidates in the elections.

The memorandum, dated May 28, was sent via the official Department of Foreign Affairs diplomatic bag and was attached to envelopes containing the ballot papers of Ireland's foreign-based staff.

FG leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach would have to explain how official facilities were used to convey a political message on FF's behalf.

Approaching the elections, the public mood has been difficult to gauge because of the number of personality clashes between Euro candidates of the same party that have dominated media coverage.

The intense rivalry between Avril Doyle and Mairéad McGuinness of Fine Gael and the competition between Fianna Fáil candidates in three of the four constituencies and between the Labour candidates in Dublin, have all taken attention away from the underlying trends in the campaign.