General Election 2011: Constituency Reviews and Predictions (Updated)

Adrian Kavanagh, 24th February 2011

In the version of this post that was finalised in the middle of last week I was estimating Fine Gael seat levels in the mid-60s, with Fianna Fail in the mid-30s. In light of poll trends in the past few days, which in fairness have more or less replicated the trends over previous weeks, and Fine Gael’s continued strong standing/Fianna Fail’s inability to gain any ground over these weeks, in addition to the slight slippage of support by Sinn Fein and Labour’s declining fortunes, and taking into account the fact that Sinn Fein/Labour/the United Left Alliance candidates seat prospects may (especially in Dublin) be hampered somewhat by lower turnouts amongst the younger age cohorts and in working class areas,  I would now call the election results by constituency as follows:

  FF FG LB GP SF OTH FEM
Carlow-Kilkenny 1 3 1       1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 3     1   1
Clare 1 2       1  
Cork East 1 2 1        
Cork North Central 1 1 2       1
Cork North West 1 2          
Cork South Central 1 3 1        
Cork South West 1 2          
Donegal North East 1 1     1    
Donegal South West 1 1     1   1
Dublin Central   1 1   1 1 2
Dublin Mid West 1 2 1       1
Dublin North   2 1 1      
Dublin North Central   1 1     1  
Dublin North East 1 1 1       1
Dublin North West 1   2        
Dublin South   2 2     1 1
Dublin South Central   2 2   1   1
Dublin South East   2 2       1
Dublin South West 1 1 1   1    
Dublin West 1 1 1     1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 1 1     1 1
Galway East 1 3          
Galway West 1 2 1     1 2
Kerry North-West Limerick   1 1   1    
Kerry South   1 1     1  
Kildare North   1 2     1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1        
Laois-Offaly 2 2     1   1
Limerick City 1 2 1       1
Limerick    1 2          
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1       1
Louth 2 2 1        
Mayo 1 4         2
Meath East 0 2 1        
Meath West 1 2         1
Roscommon-South Leitrim   2 1        
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 2          
Tipperary North   1 1     1  
Tipperary South   2       1  
Waterford   2 1   1   1
Wexford 1 2 2        
Wicklow   2 2     1 1
  30 76 38 1 9 12 24
Dublin 6 16 16 1 3 5 9
Leinster 9 19 11 0 1 2 6
Munster 8 23 9 0 2 4 3
Connacht-Ulster 7 18 2 0 3 1 6

It must be noted that the Fianna Fail seat figures here are still well in excess of what that party would expect to be winning if their election result reflected their poll levels over the past few days – I’m still assuming that candidate/personal vote/local vote effects may help that party come election day – voters may not wish to vote for Fianna Fail per se but want to vote for a candiate, who happens to be a Fianna Fail candidate! Playing the local vote card too could help Fianna Fail, winning their candidates extra votes/vote transfers from voters based in the same area as thesecandidates. Differential turnout levels could also help Fianna Fail; if turnout levels amongst their main supports bases (e.g. older voters) remain higher than those for other groups, as would be the norm, then this could act to save some Fianna Fail seats in tight races, especially if contesting with Sinn Fein, Labour or United Left Alliance candidates for final seats. It should be added that if Fianna Fail does not claw back such levels of support come election day and end up with support levels in the mid-teens, or worse still lower-to-mid-teens, then there is no way that they can expect to win more than 2o seats and they could well end up with only enough TDs to fill a mini-bus (with Seamus Kirk already slotted in as driver).   

Finally, how close can Fine Gael get to the magic 83 seat mark? For me this effectively boils down to a number of constuencies and the result/destination of the final seat there – in some cases I would not have been factoring in even the possibility of such Fine Gael gains even a week ago:

  • Cavan Monaghan – Peter McVitty pushing for a third FG seat : main opposition Kathryn Reilly SF
  • Cork North Central – Pat Burton or Dara Murphy pushing for a second FG seat in face of opposition from John Gilroy LB, Jonathan O’Brien SF and Mick Barry ULA.
  • Dublin Mid West – Derek Keating trying to win a second FG seat (I would now edge first FG seat here to Frances Fitzgerald) against opposition from Eoin O’Broin SF and the second strongest Labour candidate here (Joanna Tuffy or Robert Dowds)
  • Dublin South – Peter Mathews Fg attempting to make it three seats, main opposition probably Aidan Culhane LB or Eamon Ryan GP 
  • Dun Laoghaire – Mary Mitchell-O’Connor FG attempting to make it two out of four for Fine Gael with main opposition probably from Ivana Bacik LB and Richard Boyd-Barrett ULA 
  • Kildare North – final seat between second strongest FG candidate (Beranard Durkan possibly) and John McGinley LB
  • Meath East – Regina Doherty FG trying to take a second seat probably at the expense of Thomas Byrne LB
  • Tipperary South – Michael Murphy FG could be looking to win a second FG seat in a battle for the last seat with Mattie McGrath IND
  • Wicklow – the third strongest FG candidate (Simon Harris or Andrew Doyle) facing off for the final seat here with Dick Roche FF or Conall Kavanagh LB 

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In this post I am going to review each of the general election contests in the different constituencies, making reference back to the Newstalk local prediction survey (December 2010) and my constituency-level analyses of recent opinion poll figures as posted on www.politicalreform.ie. Candidate selections for the different constituencies may be viewed by visiting the Irish General Election Facts and Figures blog

Carlow-Kilkenny (5 seats): In 2007 the two government parties won four out of the five seats in this five-seat constituency mainly due to poor vote management on the part of Fine Gael and Labour and also due to the tendency for “Carlow votes” to stay in Carlow; factors that especially helped Mary White to win the first ever “rural” seat for the Green Party despite winning less than half a quota in terms of first preference votes. It is very hard to see the Greens hold this seat in 2011 and at least one of the three Fianna Fail seats must be viewed as being vulnerable. The prediction survey has Fine Gael at two seats here (gain of one) – although some of the more recent polls analyses point to possibility of three seats – but the NewsTalk survey awards two seats to Fianna Fail while the polls analyses award two to Labour. Given the ability of Fianna Fail to tap into the “local vote”, especially the “local Carlow vote”, the prediction survey would seem to tally better with the likely election result. Between them the Greens and Sinn Fein will probably win between ten and twenty per cent of the vote here and transfers from these parties will have a significant bearing here, unless one of the Sinn Fein or Green candidates succeeds in making it to the final count (most likely to be Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion). Ultimately this constituency will probably see seats for two Kilkenny-City based candidates, John McGuinness and Phil Hogan FG, with at least one seat to be won by a Carlow candidate (Deering FG, Murnane FF, Hurley LB or White GP) and one other seat to be won by another Kilkenny candidate (Phelan LB, JP Phelan FG, Aylward FF, Funchion SF). The final seat in this consituency will be decided by a head-to-head between the second strongest candidates from these two pools.

Gain for Labour and Fine Gael, Loss for Green Party and Fianna Fail – McGuinness FF, Murnane FF, Hogan FG, JP Phelan FG, A Phelan LB

Potential surprise package: Kathleen Funchion (Sinn Fein)  

 

Cavan-Monaghan (5 seats): Fianna Fail currently hold three of the five seats in this constituency, but one of these was due to Rory O’Hanlon holding post of Ceann Comhairle at the time of the last general election, effectively giving Fianna Fail an extra seat in this constituency. This seat had been expected to be lost at the coming election with both the politicalreform.ie polls analyses and Newstalk local survey pointing to Fine Gael regaining their second seat here (despite the retirement of their incumbent deputy, Seymour Crawford), which they had lost in 2002 to independent, Paudge Connolly, and failed to regain in 2007 due to the constituency effectively becoming a four-seater. As it transpires, in line with the burnt earth strategy being employed in some constituencies by Fianna Fail, this third seat has been effectively sacrificed and the party is opting to run just two candidates here, incumbent deputies Brendan Smith and Margaret Conlon. But the polls analyses suggest that Fianna Fail could lose a second seat here, this time to Sinn Fein’s Kathryn Reilly, although the Newstalk local survey suggests Fianna Fail will hold two here; this may reflect the fact that the survey was take a few weeks before the most recent polls. In this case, the polls analysis may prove to be a better predictor of the final result and the best case scenario probably for Fianna Fáil here would see Conlon fighting for the last seat in this constituency. Fine Gael are now running four candidates here, looking for three seats – the addition of McVitty to the ticket will likely depress the Fianna Fáil vote further as he will be taking some local votes in west Cavan that would have fallen to Smith in 2007. But if Sinn Féin manages their two-candidate strategy effectively, they should just about hold off the Fine Gael challenge. 

Gain for Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail lose two seats ­– Smith FF, J O’Reilly FG, Conlan (or more probably Humphries!!!) FG, O’Caolain SF, K O’Reilly SF

Potential surprise package: Few see this as a likely gain for Labour, but if the Gilmore Gale gains momentum in the final weeks of the campaign then their candidate, Liam Hogan, could be competitive at least.

Clare (4-seat): This has been one of Fianna Fail’s stronger constituencies in recent elections with the party actually holding three of the four seats in a number of elections in the 1980s and 1990s up to the loss of the Fianna Fáil seat to independent, and former Fianna Fail party member, James Breen in 2002. Fine Gael’s ambitious four-candidate strategy saw the party take the seat off Breen in the 2007 contest. Breen however fared much better in terms of vote share than a lot of the other successful members of the 2002 intake of independents did and will be well in contention to regain that seat in 2011. If he does, however, it will be at the expense of Fianna Fail rather than Fine Gael. The polls analyses suggest Breen will take a seat off Fianna Fail – the local prediction survey also points to a Fianna Fail loss but this time to Labour. With the surprise Bhamjee win being the only significant Labour result in this constituency in well over half a century, my feeling is that the seat predictions in the poll analyses may be more reliable in this case. Of course, it is by no means an unlikely scenario that Fianna Fail could hold both seats here, although their prospects have not been helped by the retirement of former minister, Tony Killeen.    

Independent gain, Fianna Fail loss – Dooley FF, Carey FG, P Breen FG, J Breen IND

Potential surprise package: Brian Meaney was one of only three Green candidates to win a county council seat in 2009 – he won’t win a seat but he may perform better in Clare than other Green Party candidates do elsewhere.

 

Cork East (4-seats): Cork East can almost be viewed as an amalgam of two two-seat constituencies with two seats usually being won by candidates in the northern part of the constituency and two by candidates based in the south. One of the two Fianna Fail seats are vulnerable here and the location of the lost Fianna Fail seat will ultimately determine whether Fine Gael or Labour are the more likely to gain this seat. Ned O’Keeffe’s (based in the north of the constituency) decision to retire – even though his son, Kevin, has been lined up to replace him on the ticket – could leave an opening for a Fine Gael gain in the north of the constituency, while Labour’s Mulvihill, as well as Sinn Féin’s McLellan, are looking to gain the Michael Ahern seat in the south. Both the poll analyses and local survey prediction points to one Fianna Fail loss; polls analyses point to a Fine Gael and Labour gains with no seat for Fianna Fail, and the local survey prediction points to a second seat for Fine Gael with just one loss for the party. I would see Sherlock LAB and Stanton FG as safe, with probably one Fianna Fáil seat and the other seat likely to go to either Fine Gael or Labour – at the moment I’d be calling this a Fine Gael gain in the north of the constituency at the expense of Kevin O’Keeffe.

Fianna Fail lose one seat to Fine Gael – Ahern FF, Stanton FG, O’Driscoll FG, Sherlock LB  

Potential surprise package: If the splitting of the Fine Gael vote in the north of the constituency between O’Driscoll and Barry was to have an impact and if she can get ahead of Labour’s Mulvihill in the south, Sandra McLellan could be in the running for the last seat.

 

Cork North Central (4-seats): If the “real election battle” is now viewed as being between Fine Gael and Labour in terms of a battle for relative influence within the next government, then Cork North Central will prove to be one of a range of significant battleground constituencies where both parties are fighting to be the main beneficiaries of a Fianna Fail loss. Just as in Cork East, both parties harbour serious intentions of winning one of the seats Fianna Fáil took in 2007, but in this case Fianna Fáil have effectively given up the ghost and more or less surrendered one of these seats, putting all their eggs in Billy Kelleher’s basket. The most recent of the polls analyses actually suggests that both of the two Fianna Fáil seats could be lost, one going to either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien, and the other seat being lost to Others (probably United Left Alliance candidate, Mick Barry), while the Newstalk local survey prediction points to just one Fianna Fail loss with Labour predicted to pick up the seat in this analysis. Michael Martin becoming Fianna Fáil leader will help that party’s cause in Cork city and could well secure Kelleher, while both Fine Gael and Labour should be confident of winning at least one seat here. Ironically Fine Gael transfers could see this seat fall to Labour’s John Gilroy just ahead of O’Brien or Barry. 

Fianna Fail to lose one seat and a Labour gain – Kelleher FF, Burton FG, K Lynch LB, Gilroy LB

Potential surprise package: Polls figures would suggest that both O’Brien and Barry could be in running in Cork North Central, but it would still be a major achievement for either candidate if they managed to pull of a win here. 

Cork North West (3-seats): Fianna Fáil currently holds two of the seats here, with Fine Gael holding the other. Enterprise minister Batt O’Keeffe was forced to move into this constituency in 2007 after his Ballincollog base was moved into the constituency in the 2004 Constituency Commission report and he managed to win the second of the Fianna Fail seats here at the expense of one of the incumbents, Donal Moynihan. The safest of the Fianna Fáil seats was however held by Michael Moynihan and he was always the more likely of the two incumbents to hold this seat if Fianna Fail were to be reduced to just one seat in Cork North Central, as has been consistently suggested by both the polls analyses on www.politicalreform.ie and the Newstalk local prediction survey. This undoubtedly did have a role to play in O’Keeffe’s decision to retire at this election. Fianna Fáil are not surrendering their second seat without a fight, as in Cork North Central, and are running a Ballincollig-based candidate, Daithí Ó Donnabháin, as Michael Moynihan’s running mate. But in what is probably the most predictable constituency in the coming general election – it’s hard to see any other result other than a Fine Gael 2 Fianna Fáil 1 – he is unlikely to succeed in retaining O’Keeffe’s seat, which is likely to go to another Ballincollig-based candidate, Derry Canty. This probably be karma given that Canty’s similar appearance to the former minister lead him to getting grief on the doorsteps from local voters who thought he was O’Keeffe. Ó Donnabháin’s only hope may be to edge Moynihan out for the Fianna Fáil seat, which in turn could then see Áine Collins edge Canty out for the second Fine Gael seat. This is one constituency that would require an almighty Gilmore gust to see a Labour seat and it is hard to see their candidate, Martin Coughlan, breaking the 5,000 first preferences mark.

Fine Gael gain at the expense of Fianna Fail – Moynihan FF, Creed FG, Canty FG

Potential surprise package: It would probably be the political equivalent of the earth revolving backwards for People Before Profit to win a seat here, but their candidate, Áine Foley, could surprise in terms of her first preference vote tally.

Cork South-Central (5-seats): If Cork North-West could prove to be one of the most predictable constituencies in General Election 2011, the same cannot be said of Cork South-Central. Had the government parties approached this election with a realistic or outside chance of re-election, then they would have been looking to pull back at least one seat off Fine Gael or Labour here. South Central was a very good constituency for the opposition parties in 2007 with both of them making gains at the expense of Fianna Fáil and the Greens. The polls analyses and Newtalk local survey prediction were suggesting a further Fianna Fail loss, with the local prediction opting for a third Fine Gael seat, with the December/January poll analyses being undecided as to whether the Fianna Fail seat would fall to Labour or Fine Gael. But Michael Martin’s ascension to the leadership of Fianna Fáil has changed the political landscape here, cementing what seemed up to recently to be a rather vulnerable Martin seat and probably helping in the election of his running mate, Michael Martin. Both Fine Gael and Labour will push strongly for an extra seat here but renewed local strength of Fianna Fáil means that any personnel changes in this constituency will probably occur within these parties and Jerry Buttimer could edge out one of his Fine Gael running mates. Green Party Senator, and former TD, Dan Boyle will be expected to poll well also, as will Sinn Fein’s Chris O’Leary and ultimately their transfers will determine whether there is a change here occurs, or not. But the smart money would seem to say no.

No change – Martin FF, McGrath FF, Coveney FG, Buttimer FG, C Lynch LB

Potential surprise package: Given the competitive nature of this constituency, it’s hard to see a gain for Sinn Féin but, if he can edge past Boyle and Desmond LB, O’Leary could still be in contention up to the last two counts.

 

Cork South-West (3-seats): While neighbouring Cork North West is probably the most predictable constituency in General Election 2011, the result in Cork South West is the least predictable it’s ever been in the history of this three seat constituency. Fine Gael regained their second seat here in 2007 from Fianna Fail, but both their incumbent deputies, who have represented the party here at every election in this constituency for the past 30 years, are retiring and an entirely new slate of Fine Gael candidates will face the voters on 25th February. Labour senator, Michael McCarthy, is a threat to the second Fine Gael seat as well as the sole Fianna Fail seat. Both the polls analyses and local prediction survey point to a Labour gain at the expense of Fianna Fail, but there may be enough residual Fianna Fail support in this constituency, added to the change of personnel for Fine Gael, to ensure this gain is at the expense of Fine Gael instead.

Labour gain and Fine Gael loss ­– O’Sullivan FF, Harrington FG, McCarthy LB

Potential surprise package: The big surprise here is the number of candidates competing in this constituency – probably more than doubling the numbers that contested it in General Election 2007.

 

Donegal North-East (3-seats): The “extended Fianna Fail family” held all three seats in this constituency between 1997 and 2007, with Joe McHugh regaining the Fine Gael seat in the 2007 contest. Now the retirements of incumbents, Jim McDaid and Niall Blaney, and Fianna Fáil’s decision to only select Inishowen councillor, Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fail will be effectively down to at least one seat at the next general election. Both the opinion polls analyses and Newstalk local survey prediction suggest that the second Fianna Fáil in this constituency will be lost to Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn. But this could also prove to be a constituency where Fianna Fáil’s attempt to avoid splitting the vote by running the bare number of candidates leaves them vulnerable as their one-candidate strategy leaves them vulnerable to a collapse in the party vote in those parts of the constituency that are located far away from McConalogue’s base in Inishowen, most notably the Letterkenny area. His case further won’t be helped by Fine Gael’s late decision to add a second, and Inishowen-based, candidate here – John Ryan. While it is probably hard to see Fine Gael managing to take the second seat here, the one-candidate strategy could leave McConalogue vulnerable to a strong challenge from a Letterkenny-based candidate, such as Jimmy Harte of Labour. Where is Jim McDaid when you need him? 

Sinn Fein gain at the expense of Fianna Fail – McConalogue FF, McHugh FG, MacLochlainn

Potential surprise package: Is hard to see past the triple-Mac challenge, but if Letterkenny votes Letterkenny then Jimmy Harte or Dessie Shiels could well be in the mix.

UPDATE aka AK’s WHINE: The late entry of Dara Blaney as a New Vision candidate into the Donegal North East electoral race will have a significant impact on this constituency and will put even greater pressure on Fianna Fáil’s attempts to hold their seat here. Alas his entry was too late for me to consider in my earlier Donegal North East blog post and honour demands that I must keep by my earlier 1 FF 1 FG 1 SF prediction here but can I just add in a mature fashion…IT’S NOT FAIR!!!

 

Donegal South-West (3-seats):

In a very tight electoral contest in 2007 Fianna Fail won two seats and Fine Gael one seat, with Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty narrowly missing out on a seat despite winning over 21% of the first preference votes cast. Doherty of course took one of the two Fianna Fail seats – the seat vacated to Pat “the Cope” Gallagher – in the November 2010 by-election.

Analysis of recent poll trends would suggest that Sinn Fein will hold this gain comfortably with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail likely to take the other seats. As Sinn Fein and Fine Gael are running just one candidate each, this will mark the return to the Dail of Pearse Doherty SF and veteran Dinny McGinley FG.

The only imponderable here is the destination of the one Fianna Fail seat. In retrospect, Brian O’Domhnaill’s performance in the recent by-election was more than respectable given the party’s standings in the national polls and he could have been given a serious chance of ousting his running mate, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan. However, his base is probably too close to those of Doherty and McGinley in the north western corner of this constituency and the less competitive territory of southern Donegal may allow Coughlan to amass enough local votes to edge past her party rival. That said, a Coughlan loss and a O’Domhnaill victory is by no means impossible.

Former Sinn Fein member and independent councillor Thomas Pringle finished 4th in the by-election and if even the one Fianna Fail seat is under pressure he will be the main threat to it. The other major contender is Labour’s Frank McBrearty Jr. Other candidates include Anne Sweeney, independent, and John Duffy, Green Party. 

Sinn Fein gain and Fianna Fail loss (relative to 2007 position) – Coughlan FF, McGinley FG, Doherty SF

Potential surprise package: Thomas Pringle did well in the by-election and could still be in contention in the last count or two – on a real bad day for Fianna Fáil he could well be fighting for the last seat in this constituency with their strongest candidate.

 

Dublin Central (4-seats): Probably one of the hardest constituencies to call in the upcoming general election with Joe Costello of Labour probably being the only candidate who can be confident of returning to the next Dáil. The degree of complexity surrounding the result here is also evidenced in the differing predictions of the most recent polls analyses (1FF 1LB 1SF 1IND) and the Newstalk local prediction survey (1FG 2LB 1IND), although the exclusion of a Fine Gael seat in the polls analyses says more about the low base Fine Gael is starting from here rather than Pascal Donohoe’s real prspects. With a well balanced team and the supporting gusts of the Gilmore Gale, Labour must have an excellent chance of winning two seats here (having won 4 out of the 11 council seats contested in this constituency area in the 2009 local elections), but Fine Gael must strongly fancy their chances of a gain here too with Paschal Donohoe consistently building up a support base in the area over the past six or seven years, culminating in a second placing in the 2009 by-election. And with a further four years to develop a constituency base and the “Doherty Drive” upsurge in Sinn Fein support nationally, Mary Lou McDonald must also be serious contender to win a seat here. So what does this mean for Fianna Fail, as well as Maureen O’Sullivan and the Gregory camp?  OK, just to stick my neck out here and on the basis that by-election results do not always repeat themselves, I’m going to call the first two seats as going to Costello and Donohoe, the third probably to McDonald (if the Doherty Drive can be sustained) and the final seat will be between Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick, Labour’s Aine Clancy and Maureen O’Sullivan, with O’Sullivan perhaps just about edging out Fitzpatrick for the last seat.

But as the only predictable thing about this constituency is unpredictability, the actual result will more than likely be a somewhat different one!

Fine Gael and Sinn Fein gain, Independent and two Fianna Fáil losses – Donohoe FG, Costello LB, McDonald SF, O’Sullivan IND

Potential surprise package: There are a number of other independent councillors contesting this constituency and Cieran Perry and/or Christy Burke could poll well enough here to ensure their transfers have an influence over who takes the last seats here.

 

Dublin Mid-West (4-seats): This is a relatively new constituency, first emerging in the form of a three-seat constituency in 2002 (with seats won by Curran FF, Harney PD and Gogarty GP in that election) and then gaining a seat in the 2007 election; that extra seat being won by Tuffy LB. Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald lost out on a seat here due to vote transfers in 2007, and with the Lucan electoral area poll-topper (from the 2004 and 2009 local elections), Derek Keating, also added to the ticket, Fine Gael have an excellent chance of gaining a seat here and possibly even two seats. The Harney seat, and probably most of her votes, could well fall to Fine Gael. The expected loss of the Gogarty seat will probably act to the advantage of the similarly Lucan-based Keating and Tuffy. John Curran was poll topper in Mid West in 2002 and 2007, but may have more of a struggle in 2011 if the tide nationally is going out on Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein’s Eoin O’Broin is likely to poll well, as is Gino Kenny of People Before Profit/United Left Alliance.  The local survey prediction is calling this as 1 FF 1 FG 2 LB, while the most recent polls analyses call the result as 1 FF 1 FG 1 LB 1 SF. These both agree that there will be at least one seat for Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in Mid West, and this seems a highly likely prospect. Although John Curran may find he is vying for the third or fourth seat in Mid West in 2011, and not the poll topping position, he has enough of a personal vote in both Lucan and Clondalkin to secure his position and this is perhaps one constituency where a single-candidate Fianna Fáil strategy will work well. The destination of the fourth seat is a more contentious issue, with Sinn Fein along with the second Fine Gael and Labour candidates, both in contention for this. Vote transfers from the other left-wing parties may ultimately see this fall to Labour, although Fine Gael are likely to run them very close.

Gain for Labour and Fine Gael, loss for Green Party and Independent (Progressive Democrat) – Curran FF, Keating FG, Tuffy LB, Dowds LB

Potential surprise package: While the bookies and polls analyses are tipping O’Broin as the main threat to the three larger parties here, Kenny’s strong base in north Clondalkin could edge him towards a strong showing if the turnout rate from this area can be improved on.

 

Dublin North (4-seats): In the Spring Tide 1992 election, Labour probably threw away a seat in Dublin North because they ran just one candidate, Sean Ryan; the knock on effect was that Trevor Sargent’s Dáil career began at this election largely due to vote transfers from the Ryan surplus. With the Gilmore Gale expected to be more impactful than the 1992 Spring Tide Labour should have prospects of two seats here, but it is worth noting that Labour lost their seat in this constituency to Fine Gael in 2007.  Labour should regain that seat in 2011 (as otherwise the Gilmore Gale would be akin to a Gilmore Squall) but may find gaining a second seat here as a step too far.  That said the Labour ticket is a strong geographically balanced one, as indeed is the Fine Gael ticket. Reilly is joined on the FG ticket by Malahide councillor, Alan Farrell. Reilly took the last seat in Dublin North by 1,200 votes in 2007 and will be hoping his high profile as FG deputy leader and health spokesperson cements his seat here with a higher vote, although a former FG deputy leader, Nora Owen, did lost a FG seat in this constituency in 2002. Labour’s Sean Ryan held a seat in Dublin North between 1989 and 2007, save for a year between 1997 and 1998, but his brother, Sen Brendan Ryan, failed to hold this in 2007 – he and Swords councillor, Tom Kelleher will be looking to reclaim that Labour seat.

Dublin North is a good test case for the different approaches being taken by Fianna Fail to candidate selection for this election

* the “burnt/salted earth” approach (used in Dublin South, Cork North Central) where one of the sitting FF TDs takes a “hit” and steps down, with FF effectively giving up one of their seats and leaving the other remaining FF TD to try to win that, without worrying that the voter will be split – an approach they tried in Laois-Offaly but got, er, burnt trying to do so

* the “high noon” strategy – the sitting TDs both refuse to slip into the sunset and go out guns blazing for one last fight, in mind of some strategists running the risk of both getting shot in the cross fire. Dun Laoghaire good example of this, but Dublin North also another case with two sitting TDs Darragh O’Brien and Michael Kennedy both opting to defend the seats they both won for the first time in 2007.

* the “man marking” strategy: run same number of candidates as Fine Gael and in more or less the same areas – classic examples of this being Longford Westmeath and Carlow-Kilkenny   

Both Kennedy and O’Brien are in trouble due to drop in Fianna Fáil support, but also due to losing part of their main support bases/bailwicks in the boundary changes made by the 2007 Constituency Commission – Kennedy will be losing votes in western Swords, O’Brien will be losing votes in the Portmarnock area.

The Socialist Party/United Left Alliance candidate, Claire Daly, is a strong prospect here too, but her chances have been undermined significantly by the moving of part of her Swords base to Dublin West in the 2007 Constituency Commission boundary revision (a move which in turn may help out Joe Higgins’ prospects in Dublin West).

One of the Fianna Fail seats will probably be lost to Labour. Based on national support trends for the Green Party, Trevor Sargent would be expected to lose his seat here, but his local popularity may shield him from a national trend of decline in Green support, possibly leaving him in the same position as in 1992 – as the only Green Party TD. Most of the polls analyses predict 1 FF 1 FG 1 LB and 1 SP/ULA here, while the local survey Newstalk local survey prediction called this as 1 FF 1 FG 1 LB and 1 GP. Ultimately the loss of the western part of Swords Town to Dublin West may mean that Claire Daly misses out here and Trevor Sargent holds his seat against strong challenges from the second-strongest Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail candidates;  the local prediction may have called this more effectively.

Labour gain and Fianna Fail loss ­– O’Brien FF, Reilly FG, Kelleher LB, Sargent GP

Potential surprise package: If Trevor Sargent does not manage to hold his seat here then Alan Farrell would be well placed to win a second Fine Gael seat in Dublin North.

 

Dublin North Central (3-seats): This is probably the Dublin constituency that Labour has fared poorest in over the past two decades and the party didn’t even come close to winning a seat here in 2007. On the other hand, it has been one of Fianna Fail’s strongest Dublin constituencies but the reduction in size of the constituency in the 2004 Constituency Commission report from a 4-seat to a 3-seat constituency saw Fianna Fail lose one of their two seats in the 2007 election. Richard Bruton is probably the only certainty in this constituency and his running mate, Naoise O Muiri, should also poll well.  The polls analyses suggest the status quo will hold but this is based on the very low Labour vote base from 2007. Aodhán O’Riordan is likely to prove to be a stronger Labour candidate than Derek McDowell and should edge the second seat here unless the Gilmore Gale ebbs significantly in the dying days of the Election 2011 campaign. The final seat will most likely be between independent deputy, Finian McGrath, and Fianna Fáil’s sole candidate, Seán Haughey. There is a strong likelihood that this election may spell the end of the Haughey era and the Newstalk local survey prediction suggests that Fianna Fail will be the losers here. This is one case where the party’s one candidate strategy may end up costing them the seat; the addition of proven vote-winner and local Clontarf councillor, Deirdre Heney, to the ticket may have meant that Heney and Haughey would have been able to tap into the natural Fianna Fail vote base in this constituency to a sufficient degree to edge out McGrath for the final seat.

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Bruton FG, O’Riordan LB, McGrath IND

Potential surprise package: It seems to be effectively a contest between four candidates, but O Muiri could well push hard to take a second seat for Fine Gael here.

 

Dublin North East (3-seats): Again this is a constituency that was traditionally one of Fianna Fail’s stronger constituencies but in 2007 they lost their second seat here narrowly to Terence Flanagan. With an incumbency factor now working for him, Flanagan should be more secure here in 2011 as indeed Labour incumbent, Tommy Broughan, should be. The polls analyses and local prediction survey suggest the Fianna Fail seat is vulnerable here; the polls analyses suggest that Sinn Fein will take this seat, while the Newstalk local survey prediction suggested a Labour gain. In 1992 Labour won two seats here with the same candidates they are running in 2011; Broughan and Sean Kenny, but it was a four seat constituency back then and winning two seats in a three-seat constituency will prove to be a more difficult prospect. The changing of the electoral boundaries here will have a significant impact on the final result and the addition of the Portmarnock and Balgriffin areas could change the dynamics of the constituency sufficiently to advantage the Fianna Fáil candidate, Averil Power, whose profile has also been helped by her appointment to the Fianna Fáil front bench. If Fianna Fail can recover their support levels to some degree over the next few months in a constituency where they came very close to winning two seats in 2007 they should just about hold off the Labour and Sinn Fein challenge.

No change – Power FF, Flanagan FG, Broughan LB

Potential surprise package: Independent Jimmy Guerin or the Socialist Party’s Brian Greene might poll well here.  

 

Dublin North West (3-seats): Both the polls analyses and local survey prediction are pointing to a Labour gain at the expense of Fianna Fail and this could well pan out as Labour will be well placed to gain transfer votes from the two Fine Gael candidates, Tormey and Breen, if they are not in contention for the seats here as may be expected. This would mean that Ballymun-Finglas councillor, John Lyons, would be joining Róisín Shortall in the 31st Dáil. The polls analyses suggest that the second Fianna Fail seat here could also be lost, this time to Sinn Fein. If the present polls standings hold and the Doherty Drive is sustained, then Sinn Fein could well do it, but the party in Dublin has always found it difficult to increase their support base above the level required to get councillors elected to that required to get TDs elected, especially in the three-seat North City constituencies, and Fianna Fail’s one candidate strategy in running only Pat Carey may mean they just manage to hold one of their seats here, having already effectively surrendered one of the two seats they here.

Labour gain and Fianna Fail loss – Carey FF, Shortall LB, Lyons LB

Potential surprise package: If Fine Gael ends up taking a big chunk of the Fianna Fáil middle class vote in this constituency then the stronger of their two candidates, Bill Tormey or Gerry Breen, could push into the reckoning for one of the two seats here.

 

Dublin South (5-seats): This is yet another Dublin constituency that Labour currently don’t hold a seat in, but should be well placed to win one even with a mild swing to the party. They may enjoy prospects of actually gaining two seats on the basis of the 1992 result in Dublin South in which Eithne Fitzgerald won 17,256 first preference votes after having won just 4,134 first preference votes in the 1989 contest suggesting that the effects of a Gilmore Gale could be especially accentuated here.  Both the polls analyses and Newstalk local survey prediction suggested that Fianna Fail would win one seat here and Fine Gael two, but they differ in terms of the destination of the other two seats; the polls analyses suggesting Labour will gain two seats here with the Newstalk local survey prediction suggesting Labour will hold just one and Eamonn Ryan of the Green Party will hold his seat. Labour is running Alex White and Aidan Culhane again in 2011 and if the party’s national support is higher than 20% they will have every prospect of winning two seats here, especially as George Lee’s hasty departure from politics may have put an end to Fine Gael prospects of a third seat here, although Peter Matthews has been added as a third candidate to join incumbents Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter on the ticket. The entry of Shane Ross as a high profile independent candidate here has also significantly changed the political landscape here. As Fianna Fáil has effectively conceded one of the two seats they won in 2007 by opting for a single candidate strategy with Senator Maria Corrigan, there is one seat already up for grabs here and this will likely fall to Alex White of Labour. Whether these Labour gains will be at the expense of one Fianna Fail seat, or Ryan, or indeed both Fianna Fail seats, remains to be seen. Ultimately expects a serious scrap between Ryan, Culhane, Corrigan, Ross and Matthews for the last two seats here; if things are really bad for Fianna Fail on election day then they could be especially big losers here, especially given that no Fianna Fail incumbents will be defending seats here. With possibility of transfers from Fine Gael to push him over the line, Ross could edge out Corrigan for one of the two seats here, while Ryan might just stave off Culhane for the second left-wing seat in this constituency.

Labour and Independent gain and two Fianna Fail losses – Mitchell FG, Shatter FG, White LB, Ryan GP, Ross IND

Potential surprise package: There’s a theoretical possibility here that the opposition parties could win all five seats – a far cry from the situation in the 2002 election when these two parties just managed to win one seat between them.

 

Dublin South Central (5-seats): A second seat in Dublin South Central should prove to be the easiest gain for Labour in the 2011 General Election should the Gilmore Gale start to blow, but could Labour actually win three seats here? It’s possible. In 2007 the party probably lost out to Aengus O’Snodaigh due to not running Michael Conaghan, allowing the Sinn Fein deputy to build up a sufficiently large local vote in Ballyfermot to edge out Eric Byrne; running Conaghan in 2011 should see Labour claim a larger chunk of the Ballyfermot vote.  Labour however lack a South West Inner City based candidate who could tap into the inner city apartment vote which ultimately could determine the destination of the final seats here; the party could well rue the controversial non-selection of SWIC councillor, Rebecca Moynihan.  With Sean Ardagh not contesting this election and with the party failing to win even one council seat in the three Dublin City electoral areas that make up most of this constituency, Fianna Fáil may struggle to avoid losing both of their seats here – they are already conceding one seat by the decision to run just Michael Mulcahy. Fine Gael won a seat in 2007 with less than a quota and are definitely not assured of a seat here, although Catherine Byrne’s higher profile as a front bench spokesperson may help her in retaining her seat, although it is debatable as to the degree in which Fine Gael’s three-candidate strategy will help her in doing so. On basis of the Doherty Drive suggested in recent opinion polls O’Snodaigh should hold the Sinn Fein seat, but if the Sinn Fein surge peters out by election day he could face a struggle to hold his seat. There will be a strong challenge also from Cllr Joan Collins, the People Before Profit/United Left Alliance candidate. The polls analyses and the local survey prediction differ significantly as to the result here; the polls analyses suggest three seats for Labour, one for Sinn Fein and one for Others, while the local survey prediction suggests one Fianna Fail seat, one Fine Gael seat, two Labour seats and one Sinn Fein seat. Ultimately Labour should expect at least two seats here and Fine Gael should hold Catherine Byrne’s seats, with the final two seats being contested by the other Labour candidate, O’Snodaigh, and the strongest of the Fianna Fail candidates. If things are bad for Fianna Fail on election day and the Doherty Drive is sustained to some degree, the last two seats may well fall to Sinn Fein and Labour with PBP transfers. But the decision not to select a South West Inner City-based candidate, such as Rebecca Moynihan, may ultimately cost Labour the extra votes they need to win three out of five seats here and offer Mulcahy an electoral lifeline.   

Labour gain and Fianna Fail loss – Mulcahy FF, C Byrne FG, E Byrne LB, Conaghan (or Upton) LB, O’Snodaigh SF

Potential surprise package: As one of Labour’s strongest constituencies the Gilmore Gale should achieve Gilmore Gust status here, but if it doesn’t this could leave an opening for Joan Collins to win a People Before Profit seat here.

 

Dublin South East (4-seats): This constituency comprises of the South East Inner City, Ringsend, Sandymount, Pembroke, Rathmines, Rathgar and Donnybrook.

This is generally looked on as a constituency of high profile politicians – former representatives for this constituency have included Eoin Ryan, Michael McDowell, and Garrett Fitzgerald.

In the 2002 General Election Fine Gael and Labour between them struggled to take just one seat in this four seat constituency with Ruairi Quinn winning a Labour seat – a far cry from Garrett Fitzgerald’s heyday in the 1980s. However, Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton reclaimed a seat for the party in 2007 contest, ending the political career of Michael McDowell in the process – McDowell having been beaten for the forth seat by John Gormley. Now Labour and Fine Gael are both going for second seats in this constituency – Quinn being joined by experienced South East Inner City councillor, Kevin Humphries, while Lucinda Creighton and Eoghan Murphy form a very young Fine Gael team.

The most vulnerable seat would seem to be John Gormley’s – the Green Party leader and former Minister for Environment will face a tough battle here to hold his seat and will probably need to improve on his first preference tally, given that the transfers that helped him edge out McDowell in 2007 will likely dry up somewhat this time. If he is not in the running in 2011, then Labour are the more likely party to pick up on his lost votes.

This has traditionally been one of Fianna Fáil’s weakest constituencies nationally, although they have managed to win at least one seat here – Chris Andrews is running as the single party candidate this time (this is one constituency where a one candidate Fianna Fáil ticket does make sense) and must be seen as vulnerable though he can rely on a significant personal vote that will at least keep him in contention.

The other major challenger here will be independent candidates, Paul Somerville and Cllr. Mannix Flynn, neither of whom can be ruled out. Somerville may take some of the McDowell vote that may otherwise have gone to Fine Gael, but if he is eliminated before the last count his transfers could well see a second Fine Gael candidate over the line.   

Fine Gael and Labour gains, Green Party and Fianna Fail losses – Lucinda Creighton FG, Murphy FG, Quinn LB, Humphries LB

Potential surprise package: It’s hard to estimate how well Paul Somerville will do here, but if he can take the lion’s share of the old McDowell vote then he will be very much in contention to take a seat here.

 

Dublin South West (4-seats): A constituency comprising of the Tallaght, Templeogue and Firhouse, in 2007 in what ultimately turned out to be a relatively straight-forward electoral contest Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes won back the seat he had lost to Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe in 2002, with Hayes, Labour’s Pat Rabbitte and Fianna Fáil’s Conor Lenihan and Charlie O’Connor all each winning over a quota, or close to a quota, on the first count. In the upcoming election, all these candidates are contesting again, but Brian Hayes will be accompanied by Cáit Keane on the Fine Gael ticket and Rabbitte will be joined by Eamonn Maloney on the Labour ticket. Ultimately, given current poll trends, one would feel that the Hayes and Rabbitte seats are safe, and that the final two seats will be fought between the two Fianna Fáilers, Crowe and Maloney. Given that Sinn Féin held a seat here between 2002 and 2007, regaining their Dublin South West seat would be high on the list of Sinn Féin targets and if the swing towards Sinn Féin in recent polls largely holds then Crowe must be seen as a strong probability to win a seat here. The final seat would be fought between the two remaining Fianna Fáilers and Maloney LB – in this case some suggest that running two candidates may cost Fianna Fáil two seats here due to the splitting of the vote, however the likelihood is that the personal votes of the two Fianna Fáil incumbents combined may be enough to edge the stronger over the line to take one Fianna Fáil seat here, unless the Gilmore Gale gusts especially strongly in Tallaght.

Sinn Féin gain and Fianna Fáil loss – O’Connor FF, Hayes FG, Rabbitte LB, Crowe SF

Potential surprise package: The Socialist Party’s Mick Murphy probably won’t win a seat here but could attain a significant level of votes here and his transfers could have a big impact on the final result.

 

Dublin West (4-seats): A constituency mainly focusing on the Greater Blanchardstown region, this was a three seat constituency in 2007 in which Socialist Party leader, Joe Higgins, lost his seat with Leo Varadkar winning back the seat that Fine Gael had lost in the 2002 election – Brian Lenihan FF and Joan Burton LB were also elected in this contest. Based on its population levels, Dublin West was by far the most under-represented constituency in 2007 with a population per TD ratio (30,967) that was 21.2% above the national average and an actual population level (92,900) that was higher than the 4-seat Cork North Central constituency (91,591). Dublin West was always likely to gain an extra seat in the boundary revisions associated with the 2007 Constituency Commission report and so it did, although this also required the addition of extra territory from neighbouring Dublin North, including the western part of Swords town, to balance the population numbers. The common wisdom, especially in light of his successes in the 2009 local and European elections, would be that Joe Higgins will claim this extra seat. But could the seat of Brian Lenihan – who has consistently topped the poll in Dublin West since he first was elected here in the 1996 by-election – be vulnerable? If national support trends are mirrored in Dublin West, then this would leave Fianna Fáil with les than a quota in this constituency – a vote that would also have to be shared between Lenihan and his young running mate, David McGuinness. If what would have seemed unthinkable in 2007 does pan out and Lenihan loses his seat here, then Labour’s Patrick Nulty would be the most likely candidate to benefit from this. But can Labour manage their vote adequately to ensure Nulty has enough first preference votes to put pressure on Fianna Fáil and the Lenihan seat?   

Socialist Party gain the extra seat – Lenihan FF, Varadkar FG, Burton LB, Higgins SP

Potential surprise package: If the Lenihan seat is lost, it might transpire that Fine Gael’s Kieran Dennison is the one to win this especially if a Fianna Fáil loss is caused by a significant loss of middle class support in the constituency.   

 

Dún Laoghaire (4-seats): This is the ultimate “group of death” constituency, its deathly status having been exacerbated by the loss of a seat in the 2007 Constituency Commission boundary revisions, meaning that at least one of the five incumbent TDs – all of whom are contesting this constituency again – will lose their seat in General Election 2011. The most likely casualty would appear to be Ciarán Cuffe of the Green Party, especially given that he was dependent on vote transfers to win the last seat here in 2007. However, Richard Boyd-Barrett, who came very close to winning a seat in 2007 and who further built on this success with a poll-topping performance in the Dún Laoghaire electoral area (in which he amassed one of the highest preference vote tallies in the state) in the 2009 local elections, could also take another of the present incumbent’s seats, in this case one of the seats held by Fianna Fáil’s high profile team, Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews. Adding further intrigue to this delicious mix, Labour will be hoping that a localised Gilmore Gust (thanks to Mary Gilmartin, NUI Maynooth for this nuance of the Gilmore Gale) could help Ivana Bacik to take a second seat here, while Mary Mitchell-O’Connor cannot be ruled out either while independent councillor, Vincent Boyhan, might also poll well. On present poll trends, it looks likely as if one of the two Fianna Fáil candidates will lose their seat here, most likely to Boyd-Barrett, unless a Gilmore Gust sees Bacik edge past him. But could the risky “high noon” strategy of running two candidates in a constituency where the Fianna Fáil vote could be down to a single quota result in a splitting of the party vote and see both Hanafin and Andrews lose out? It could be close…it could be very close…but I think Fianna Fáil may just have enough here to hold on to one seat.      

People Before Profit gain and Fianna Fáil and Green Party losses – Hanafin FF, Barrett FG, Gilmore LB, Boyd-Barrett PBP

Potential surprise package: Fine Gael held three out of five seats in this constituency not that long ago (well maybe long ago enough – 1982!), although they then went on to fail to win any seats in 2002 requiring Sean Barrett to be called out of retirement to reclaim a seat for the party in 2007. With a significant latent Fine Gael vote, with almost 4,000 first preference Fiona O’Malley votes needing to find a home (or at least that portion that were not located in the part of the constituency moved into Dublin South) and with some of Fianna Fáil’s middle class vote up for grabs, could Fine Gael possibly take two seats out of four here? Mary Mitchell-O’Connor might be worth a bet if you can get good odds on her to win a seat! 

 

Galway East (4-seats): This constituency mainly comprises of the parts of Co. Galway located to the east of Galway City and includes towns of Ballinasloe, Tuam, Loughrea, Athenry, Portumna and Gort. This is a large constituency in terms of geographical area and as a result voting tends to be very geographical (as shown in maps via web link below), with the candidates tending to win most of their votes in their own side of the constituency. The Dublin-Galway rail line runs a key divide within this constituency and being located on the right or wrong side of the tracks could determine a candidate’s chances of winning a seat here; http://geographyspecialinterestgroup.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/geography-and-voting-trends-galway-east-constituency/

The key dividing line in this constituency is this Dublin-Galway rail line, with two candidates tending to be elected from the area north of the railway line, and two from the area south of the railway line in most elections. Parties tend to use this line (most notably Fine Gael) as part of their vote management strategies – for instance in 2007 Fine Gael controversially ran four candidates here (in a constituency where they then just held one seat) – two to the north of the line (Paul Connaughton Sr/Tom McHugh) and two to the south (Ulick Burke/John Barton). Tactically it proved to be an astute move as not only did running two candidates in both areas push up the party vote, it also had the effect of depressing the local votes won by opposition candidates; most evident in the Tuam area where Tom McHugh’s vote had the effect of taking out the challenge offered by the then incumbent independent deputy, Paddy McHugh, resulting in Fine Gael reclaiming the seat the party had lost in 2002.  

So what has changed here? Well Galway East elected four veteran candidates in 2007; Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt of Fianna Fail, Ulick Burke and Paul Connaughton Sr of Fine Gael – of these only Kitt is running again so at least three new TDs will be elected in this four-seat constituency. The winds of change will blow here, but how strongly?

Working out who may get elected here, one must take account of the likelihood that two seats will be won by candidates based in the north of the constituency and two seats won by candidates based in the south. The more intense competition is likely to be based in the part of the constituency located to the north of the railway, with Kitt, Paul Connaughton Jr FG, independent councillor Tim Broderick and Sinn Fein’s Dermot Connolly based in Ballinasloe area and independent councillor, Sean Canney, Tom McHugh FG and Colm Keaveney LB all based in the Tuam area. Kitt’s running mate, Michael F Dolan FF will be competing in the southern part of the constituency with Jimmy McClearn FG and Ciaran Cannon FG – Cannon being a former Progressive Democrat candidate in this constituency and the last person to hold position of leader of that party – as well as Lorraine Higgins of Labour.

Fianna Fail came close to winning three out of four seats in this constituency in 2002, but their aims are less ambitious in this election – they are effectively fighting to retain their two seats and the support trends at the moment would suggest they might just win one this time. Kitt may be the more likely to win. Fine Gael should win two seats here – one in the north (Connaughton or McHugh) and one in the south (McClearn or Cannon) with the third strongest candidate also possibly being in the running for the final seat here also.  If Fianna Fáil lose a seat here and Fine Gael fail to pick this up, then the final seat will probably go to an independent candidate or to Labour. Thinking geographically, if Kitt wins the one Fianna Fáil seat, the other seat in the north of the constituency is likely to go to a Fine Gael candidate and one based in the Tuam area, hence Tom McHugh might be tipped to edge out Connaughton, Keaveney, Canney and Broderick. In the south of the constituency, assuming Fianna Fáil will not take two seats here, the likelihood is that the stronger Fine Gael candidate (probably Jimmy McClearn) will take one of the south Galway seats, leaving Lorraine Higgins and Ciaran Cannon to fight it out for the remaining seat in this constituency.

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Kitt FF, McHugh FG, McClearn Fg, Higgins LB

Potential surprise package: This could well be one of the constituencies where the Doherty Drive surge in Sinn Fein support impacts greatly and don’t rule out a strong performance by Ballinasloe councillor, Dermot Connolly.

 

Galway West (5-seats): This large constituency comprises of Galway City and its immediate commuter hinterland as well as the western part of Galway County (including Connemara). Fianna Fáil won two seats here in 2007 with some ease, Eamonn O Cuiv topping the poll with Frank Fahey also being elected and the party’s third candidate, Michael Crowe also making it to the final count. But for the fact that this was by far the Progressive Democrats’ strongest constituency in 2007, with Noel Grealish holding his seat rather comfortably, Fianna Fáil may well have won three seats here. But the continued quest of Fianna Fáil to win three seats in Galway West will likely be sidelined in 2011 as the party strives to hold what it has, even though the same three candidates as in 2007 will again be on the Fianna Fáil ticket. Eamonn O Cuiv’s seat is probably one of the safest Fianna Fáil seats in the country but Frank Fahey looks likely to lose out in this election (although there is the possibility that Crowe could poll well enough in Galway City to hold the second Fianna Fáil seat with Fahey transfers). Noel Grealish’s prospects are not likely to be unduly affected by the winding up of the Progressive Democrats and the fact he will be now an independent candidate, although he will miss the vote transfers offered by sweeper Progressive Democrat candidates as in 2002 and 2007, although Thomas Welby, one of his 2007 running mates, is running again as an independent. The Fine Gael and Labour incumbents will not be running again this time. Michael D. Higgins, who has contested every election for Labour here since 1969, is retiring to concentrate on a presidential election campaign, while Fine Gael’s Padraig McCormack decided not to contest again after losing out on winning one of the two positions on offer at the Fine Gael candidate selection. Labour is running just Derek Nolan in the hope of holding on to the Higgins seat and in the face of strong local opposition from former Labour member, Cllr. Catherine Connolly. Fine Gael is running four candidates; the party having decided to add Seán Kyne and Hildegarde Naughton to the ticket after Fidelma Healy-Eames and Brian Walsh won the nominations at the constituency convention. It remains to be seen whether this four candidate strategy will work in the same way as the four-candidate strategy did in neighbouring Galway East in 2007, but if it does then the likelihood is that one county-based and one city-based Fine Gael candidate will be new members of the 31st Dáil.      

Fine Gael gain and Fianna Fáil loss – O Cuiv FF, Healy-Eames FG, Naughten (or Walsh) FG, Nolan LB, Grealish IND

Potential surprise package: This will be a very close constituency in which vote transfers could ultimately dictate who wins the last one or two of the five seats on offer here. Don’t rule out the likelihood of Nolan failing to win a Labour seat here (losing to Connolly) or of Crowe managing to hold on to the second Fianna Fáil seat (at the expense of Grealish or a potential Fine Gael gain).

 

Kerry North-West Limerick (3-seats): While losing some territory to Kerry South in the south of the constituency the old three-seat Kerry North constituency had the western part of Limerick county added to it to balance the population sufficiently to allow it remain as a three-seat constituency. In 2007 this was one of Fine Gael’s stronger constituencies when the over-concentration of candidates in the Tralee end of the constituency left the northern end of the constituency open to Jimmy Deenihan to build up a huge first preference vote. Despite a disappointing vote for Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, both parties did enough to see off the challenge of Labour and return Tom McEllistrim and Martin Ferris to the 30th Dáil. In this election four candidates from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Labour will again be challenging for the three seats here. Tom McEllistrim is probably defending one of the most vulnerable Fianna Fáil seats in the county and on present national poll standings it is hard to see him hold off the challenge of Labour’s Arthur Spring, who looks likely to take the second seat here just ahead of Martin Ferris. The boundary change will act mainly to the benefit of Deenihan and Fine Gael in this election, although if the tide turns late towards Fianna Fáil in the campaign the addition of the territory from West Limerick (where Sinn Féin and Labour would have little tradition of political support) could help Tom McEllistrim to sneak what seems at the moment to be an unlikely victory. 

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Deenihan FG, Spring LB, Ferris SF

Potential surprise package: As opposed to previous elections in which it was Fianna Fáil who tended to go with a two-candidate strategy, in this election Fine Gael are running two candidates, with West Limerick based councillor John Sheahan joining Deenihan on the ticket. If Fine Gael manage their vote well enough, it may be Sheahan and not McEllistrim who comes closest to stopping Labour and Sinn Féin taking the last two seats here.  

 

Kerry South (3-seats): A slight boundary change has brought in the Castleisland area into this constituency. Fine Gael should retain the seat it reclaimed in the 2007 election; indeed the main threat to the seat of Fine Gael’s Tom Sheahan is his Dingle-based running mate, Cllr. Brendan Griffin. Labour are looking to reclaim the seat they lost to Fine Gael in that election and will be hoping that Killarney councilor, Marie Moloney, can reclaim back Breda Moynihan Cronin’s seat here. The interesting dimension of this contest will focus on the extended Fianna Fáil family – the intense competition within this could create the space to allow Moloney steal back the Labour seat. Independent deputy, and former member of Fianna Fáil, Jackie Healy-Rae is retiring and will be hoping that this seat is won by his son, Michael, poll-topper in Killorglin in the 2009 local elections and winner of RTE reality TV show, Celebrities Go Wild. Both of the Healy-Rae brothers succeeded in topping the poll in the Killorglin and Killarney electoral areas in the 2009 local elections and this must bode well for the electoral prospects of Michael Healy-Rae. In a case of life duplicating art and mirroring TG4’s excellent Running Mate drama, high profile Fianna Fáil TD, John “The Bull” O’Donoghue, is now being challenged by his former running mate, Tom Fleming, who is contesting this election as an independent candidate. Having played “sweeper” candidate over the past two elections and being denied the chance of a seat because of O’Donoghue’s poor vote management attempts, could this be the election in which Fleming usurps his former party colleague? If the swing is heading toward the opposition parties, it may be the case the rift with Kerry South Fianna Fáil allows Labour to take back their seat here, in a similar manner to how the rift within Fianna Fáil in Limerick West in 1997 resulted in the party losing one of the two seats to Fine Gael.                

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Griffin FG, Moloney LB, Healy-Rae IND

Potential surprise package: Given that he polled over 2,500 first preference votes in Killarney in the 2009 local elections, the prospects of South Kerry Independent Alliance councillor, Michael Gleeson, cannot be easily dismissed and he could end up outpolling one or two of his higher-profile opponents.

 

Kildare North (4-seats): For the first time since the 1992 election, the boundaries of the two Kildare constituencies was not significantly changed ahead of this general election – all that ensued in the 2007 Constituency Commission report was a small transfer of population and territory from Kildare South to Kildare North, a factor that may marginally improve the electoral prospects of Fianna Fáil TD, Michael Fitzpatrick, and Naas-based Fine Gael councilor, Anthony Lawlor. Kildare North was one of a number of commuter-belt constituencies in 2007 where a late “breakfast-roll man” swing to Fianna Fáil helped that party to pick up seats that most observers were not expecting them to win. The main beneficiary of this swing in 2007 was Áine Brady, who topped the poll with ease with over eleven thousand first preference votes; although her running mate, Michael Fitzpatrick, was close to five thousand votes behind her on the first count he too was comfortably elected. The unexpected two-seat success for Fianna Fáil was mainly at the expense of Leixlip-based independent, Catherine Murphy, who lost the seat she had won two years earlier in the 2005 by-election. The volatile nature of swing votes means that Áine Brady may find the support that ebbed towards her in 2007 ebbing away towards other candidates, including Murphy, in 2011 and her running mate, Fitzpatrick, may be the one to hold a Fianna Fáil seat here, if the party is just down to one seat, given that his support base is a more traditional, and presumably less volatile, Fianna Fáil vote. Both Fine Gael and Labour are running two candidates in Kildare North in 2011; Maynooth-based incumbent Bernard Durkan and Anthony Lawlor for Fine Gael, Straffan-based incumbent Emmett Stagg and Maynooth-based councilor, John McGinley, for Labour. Stagg looks to be a realistic contender for poll-topper in this contest, but Durkan, who first won a seat in the old Kildare constituency in 1981, will find his position put under pressure by the addition of McGinley to the field and he could well lose out on the Fine Gael seat to Lawlor. McGinley is likely to pose the main threat to Fianna Fáil if it transpires that both that party’s seat are at risk, but the suspicion must be that Fianna Fáil can amass sufficient support to hold onto one of their seats.            

Independent gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Fitzpatrick FF, Lawlor FG, Stagg LB, Murphy IND

Potential surprise package: Apart from Murphy and the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour candidates, none of the other candidates are likely to be close to being in contention for a seat. It would be something of a surprise if Martin Kelly of Sinn Féin or Shane Fitzgerald of the Green Party can break the three thousand votes mark; if either do it might point to a potential gain for their parties here in upcoming elections.  

 

Kildare South (3-seats): Fortune favours the bold, but there is little in the way of ambition on view here from both Labour and Fine Gael, with these parties running just one candidate apiece here and considerably easing the pressure on Fianna Fáil efforts to hold on to at least one of the two seats that party won here in the 2002 and 2007 elections. For parties that are running unprecedented numbers of candidates in other constituencies, it is surprising that neither party opted to run a second candidate from the northern end of the constituency (Kildare Town/Newbridge) with both Labour’s Jack Wall and Fine Gael’s new candidate Martin Heydon being based in the Athy area in the south of the constituency. The sum effect of this will mean that one of the two Fianna Fáil incumbents, Sean Power, will probably be at an advantage relative to his running mate, Sean O’Fhearghaill, given his more northerly base within Kildare South, although both candidates’ main support bases tend to be clustered in areas distant from Wall and Heydon’s Athy bailiwicks. The main competition that may prevent Fianna Fáil holding on to one of their two seats here (if we assume that one of these will fall to Heydon) will be Newbridge independent councillor, Paddy Kennedy.               

Fine Gael gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Power FF, Heydon FG, Wall LB

Potential surprise package: It seems incredible to think that Fianna Fáil could fail to win even one seat in a constituency where the party won over half the votes cast in 2007, but if Paddy Kennedy makes an impact in this election he could well be fighting for the last seat here with the stronger of the two Fianna Fáil incumbents.

 

Laois-Offaly (5-seats): Fianna Fáil won three seats here in 2007 with Brian Cowen winning over 19,000 first preference votes himself, and indeed the party was never in any danger of not winning three with over 55% of the vote and over 40,000 first preference votes (the highest Fianna Fail vote nationally by far). Indeed Fianna Fáil was probably closer to winning a fourth seat than losing one of their three seats. Things seem to have changed dramatically based on the most recent national and local opinion polls and have lead to fears that Fianna Fáil might just win one seat here, especially in the wake of Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s decision not to contest this election. Similar to the “salted earth” or “burnt earth” electoral strategies employed in other constituencies, such as Cork North Central, Dublin South Central, Dublin South and Waterford, it seemed as if the plan was for the party to run just a Laois (incumbent TD Seán Fleming) and an Offaly candidate (the Taoiseach’s brother, Barry Cowen), but this plan was shelved in the Laois end of the constituency when the other Laois incumbent, John Moloney, decided not to retire. To make matters worse, the other Fianna Fáil candidate from 2007, Cllr John Foley from Edenderry, decided to run as an independent in this election when it became apparent that the party was just going to run one Offaly candidate. The Fianna Fáil organisation in Laois-Offaly was probably the strongest party machine in the country: a strength that was based on very strong party discipline within the local organisation, but with Brian Cowen off the scene and the outbreak of internal hostilities things are not looking too good for the party. Most commentators expect that if there is two seats here that these will fall to Cowen and Fleming, but the addition of John Moran to the Fine Gael ticket could see Fleming’s local vote base being eroded sufficiently to allow Moloney outpoll him.

Fine Gael currently holds two seats in this constituency – Charlie Flanagan and Olwyn Enright, but Olwyn Enright is stepping down at this election for family reasons. Despite that it seems vitually certain that Fine Gael will win two seats here at least; given her location in western Offaly Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy seems to be the best placed of the three new Fine Gael candidates to pick up on the Enright vote (as well as the old Tom Parlon vote in south-western Offaly) and she could well win the second Fine Gael seat here. The other two Fine Gael candidates are John Moran (Luggacurren electoral area) and Liam Quinn (Edenderry), who seems to be the youngest Fine Gael candidate nationally in this election. One of these two candidates could well be in the running for the final seat in this constituency.

If Fianna Fáil is to lose a seat here, it could quite probably fall to Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Brian Stanley from Portlaoise. Given that Labour held a seat here from the foundation of the state until the 1960s and again more recently between 1992 and 1997 (Pat Gallagher), in a Gilmore-gale election Labour should really be looking to win a seat here despite some abysmal election results in this constituency in general elections and local elections during the 2000s. The decision of party headquarters to present John Whelan, the former editor of the “Leinster Express”, as the decided candidate at the party convention lead to a number of party members walking. These have now formed their own local organisation which has linked itself to the United Left Alliance (ULA) grouping. Liam Dumpleton was to be this group’s candidate, but he withdrew when he refused to sign the ULA pledge and he is now running as an independent candidate – the group instead selected Ray Fitzpatrick as their candidate. It remains to be seen whether these internal problems keep Labour out of contention when the seats are being divvied up in Laois-Offaly, but that said Whelan is likely to poll well and should at least be in contention for the final seats in this constituency.

Twenty one candidates will contest this constituency in 2011, including ten county and town councilors from Laois and Offaly, including Rotimi Adebari. Many of these independent candidates could amass fairly sizeable votes (of a couple of thousand first preferences) and their impact will ensure a very long count here, as well as a result that is very much shaped by vote transfer patterns.

Sinn Féin gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Cowen FF, Moloney FF, Flanagan FG, Corcoran-Kennedy FG, Stanley SF

Potential surprise package: The list of independent candidates is so extensive (and many have proven vote-winning abilities based on their electoral successes at local level) that it is difficult to detect which candidates could make an especial impact here, although Foley has shown an ability to win a significant personal vote in the 2007 General Election, albeit as a Fianna Fáil candidate. But – especially if vote transfers hold up well between independent candidates – one of the independents could well emerge from the pack to win a seat here, the most likely contenders being Foley or Ferbane councillor, John Leahy. 

 

Limerick (3 seats): Significant changes made to the old Limerick West constituency by the 2007 Constituency Commission means that this constituency effectively comprises of all of Limerick county, except for the area to the east of Limerick City and the county’s western fringes along the border with north Kerry. This has involved the loss of territory in the west of the county (to Kerry North-West Limerick) and the gaining of territory in the east of the county (from the old Limerick East) constituency. John Cregan’s late decision to withdraw from the election following constituency colleague/rival Niall Collins’ promotion to the Fianna Fáil front bench means that Fianna Fáil effectively concede one seat here; a seat that will likely fall to Fine Gael (and to Bill O’Donnell, given his more fortunate location in the constituency relative to running mate, Patrick O’Donovan), while Dan Neville should hold his seat and possibly top the poll. But there will be also strong challenges here from Labour’s James Heffernan and independent John Dillon, one of whom could strongly challenge O’Donnell or even Collins for the last seat here.

1 FF, 2 FG: Collins FF, Neville FG, O’Donnell FG

Limerick City (4 seats): This constituency comprises of Limerick City and the rural area located to the east of the city. The main factor impacting on the result in this constituency will be the boundary changes in the 2007 Constituency Commission report that saw this constituency (or Limerick East as it was called then) go from a 5-seat to a 4-seat constituency, so at least one of the sitting TDs (all are contesting again) will lose their seat in this election. In 2007 Fianna Fáil won two seats, with a massive first preference vote for Willie O’Dea, Fine Gael won two seats with Kieran O’Donnell taking a second seat from the party from the Progressive Democrats, and Labour won one seat. The general expectation would be that the second Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael seat will be lost, or both if the challenge from Labour or Sinn Féin is especially strong here.

Despite the collapse in Fianna Fáil support nationally and his own difficulties that saw him forced to resign as Minister for Defence last year, Willie O’Dea is likely to be one of very few Fianna Fáil candidates to top the poll in 2011, especially in the wake of his high profile support for the Rubberbandits, but he will be well ahead of his running mate, Peter Power, and is unlikely to be able to provide enough transfers to bring Power across the line. Michael Noonan’s higher profile is probably going to translate into higher support for him than his Fine Gael running mate Kieran O’Donnell but the gap between the two Fine Gael candidates will not be as pronounced as in Fianna Fáil case and O’Donnell will be well in the running to take one of the last two seats here. If Labour were to win a similar first preference share to 2007, then the Labour seat here would be at risk, but with a Gilmore Gale blowing Jan O’Sullivan’s seat should be secure here and her running mate, Joe Leddin, could be in contention for the last seat – there is also the possibility however that it is Leddin who takes the one Labour seat. The Sinn Féin candidate, Maurice Quinlivan, is also seen as a contender here, but this may be one election too early for Sinn Féin here.

Constituency reduced in size by one seat – Fianna Fáil loss – O’Dea FF, Noonan FG, O’Donnell FG, O’Sullivan LB

Potential surprise package: Joe Leddin could end up winning the Labour seat here and ousting his higher profile running mate, Jan O’Sullivan

 

Longford-Westmeath (4-seats): With Labour’s Willie Penrose and Fine Gael’s James Bannon looking well placed to take the first two seats here, the final two seats in this constituency will be fought out between the winners of three local battles in the towns of Athlone (O’Rourke FF, McFadden FG, Hogan SF, Moran IND), Longford (Kelly FF, Sexton LB) and Mullingar (Troy FF, Burke FG). In these head-to-heads, I would tip Kelly to poll strongest in Longford Town and Burke to outpoll Troy in Mullingar, while tentatively tipping O’Rourke to emerge from the white heat of the Athlone battle. In 2007 low turnout in Westmeath relative to Longford saw that county lose out and in particular the town of Mullingar. If participation levels increase in Mullingar in 2011, particularly relative to the high turnouts recorded in Longford Town, Peter Burke could well take a second seat for Fine Gael here, possibly leaving the two Fianna Fáil incumbents, Mary O’Rourke and Peter Kelly, fighting it out for the last seat. If O’Rourke can see off the local challenge of former Fianna Fáil councillor, Kevin “Boxer” Moran, and Nicky McFadden, transfers from fellow Westmeath Fianna Fáiler could help her to edge past Kelly. 

Fine Gael gain and Fianna Fáil loss – O’Rourke FF, Bannon FG, Burke FG, Penrose LB

Potential surprise package: With ten serious contenders for the four seats here, a victory by any of these would not amount to a serious surprise! The only surprise would be if this constituency battle turned out to be relatively straight-forward in the end.  

 

Louth (5*-seats): The 2007 Constituency Commission awarded Louth an extra seat and added territory from eastern Meath, but with Seamus Kirk automatically returned as Ceann Comhairle this effectively is again a four seat constituency. With added territory in the Drogheda environs, Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd looks likely to top the poll and the Gilmore Gale, combined with the effect of the boundary change, should see Labour’s Ged Nash take a second seat for the Drogheda-based candidates ahead of Fianna Fáil’s James Carroll. Fianna Fáil’s Declan Breathnach, Fine Gael’s Peter Fitzpatrick (and Louth county football manager) and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, as well as the Green Party’s Mark Dearey will vie for the two seats on offer for Dundalk-based candidates. If there is one seat for Fianna Fáil in this constituency then Breathnach should be the candidate to win this. The final seat will be between Adams and Fitzpatrick. The lack of a local base in the constituency could mean that even Gerry Adams’ high profile cannot help him to win a seat here, especially if the local Fine Gael machine can put their differences aside and row in behind Fitzpatrick.

If the Gilmore Gale does not gust strongly enough in Louth, then the political landscape changes and in these circumstancesCarroll, and not Breathnach, would take the Fianna Fáil seat, allow both Fitzpatrick and Adams to take the remaining two, Dundalk-based, seats.

Fine Gael gain and Sinn Féin loss – Kirk* FF, Breathnach FF, O’Dowd FG, Fitzpatrick FG, Nash LB

Potential surprise package: On what could be a bad day nationally for the party, Mark Dearey’s personal vote could ensure that he is one of that party’s strongest performers in General Election 2011 and allow him build up a sufficient vote base to launch a serious challenge for a seat in the 2016 contest.        

 

Mayo (5-seats): Fine Gael nearly won sixty per cent of the vote in Mayo in 2007 and came very close to winning four seats. If this vote holds up or increases (as seems likely) and if Michele Mulherin can outpoll Dara Calleary in the Ballina area then Fine Gael will become the first party to ever win four seats in a five seat constituency. If Calleary’s vote in the north of Mayo erodes under the pressure of the Fine Gael campaign, he may find his seat under threat from Labour’s Jerry Cowley (a former independent TD here) and Castlebar independent councillor, Michael Kilcoyne. Ironically if the party vote ebbs in north Mayo, Calleary, a leading light in the Ógra wing of the parliamentary party, could lose his seat to a much younger running mate, Lisa Chambers, especially if she can tap into the old Flynn, Chambers and Carty support bases in the south of the county. Indeed, Calleary’s main contribution to the Ógra branch might amount to providing her with the necessary transfer votes to edge past Kilcoyne for the final seat.

Fine Gael gain and Independent/Fianna Fáil loss – Chambers FF, Kenny FF, Ring FF, Mulherin FF, O’Mahony FF

Potential surprise package: Lisa Chambers winning a seat here would be viewed as a major surprise by most observers!

Meath East (3-seats): This was a new constituency created ahead of the 2007 General Election after population growth in Co. Meath required the division of the old 5-seat Meath constituency into two new three-seat constituencies; Meath East (focused on north-eastern and eastern parts of Meath, including the commuter towns of Laytown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne and Ratoath) and Meath West (the rest of the county, including the county towns of Navan, Trim and Kells, as well as the north-eastern corner of Westmeath). With just two incumbents competing in Meath East; Mary Wallace FF and Shane McEntee FG (who won the 2005 Meath by-election), there was definitely a seat up for grabs and most commentators expected this would go to Dominic Hannigan, who had polled well for Labour in the 2005 by-election. The late “breakfast roll-man” swing to Fianna Fail however saw this seat being won by Mary Wallace’s Fianna Fail running mate, Thomas Byrne.

Since the 2007 election further boundary changes have seen the north-eastern, coastal, corner of the constituency – effectively the southern hinterland of Drogheda – moved into Louth, while the Kells area has been moved into the constituency from Meath West. This boundary change will act to the benefit of McEntee, while Byrne and Hannigan may be expected to lose votes due to the area that has been moved into the Louth constituency. In this election, most observers expect Fianna Fail to win just one seat here, especially as Mary Wallace has decided not to contest this election; Wallace’s decision does improve the prospects of her 2007 running mate, Byrne, although it is not definite that Fianna Fail will take even one seat here. With the boundary changes assisting him and with Fine Gael performing strongly in the polls, Shane McEntee looks well placed to top the poll here and the real interest for Fine Gael here will lie in the prospects of his running mate, Regina Doherty. She has a strong chance of taking a second seat for the party if the Fianna Fail collapse is especially accentuated in Meath East or if the “Gilmore Gale” turns into, what Conor Murphy (NUIM) has termed, a “Gilmore Squall”, meaning that Dominic Hannigan misses out on a seat here again. If Labour’s current poll levels do hold, however, the expectation would be that Hannigan would probably be the next person elected here, leaving Byrne to fight for the final seat with Doherty. If Doherty significantly outpolls Doherty’s running mate, Nick Killian, in the south of the constituency then she could launch a serious challenge and possibly leave Fianna Fail seat less in a constituency where the party comfortably won 2 seats in 2007. But there probably may be sufficient residual Fianna Fail support here to edge the final seat towards Byrne.

Labour gain from Fianna Fail; Byrne FF, McEntee FG, Hannigan LB

Potential surprise package: Having failed to win the Fianna Fail nomination, Sharon Keogan is now running as a New Vision candidate and will will a signifiicant level of support. If things are bad on election day for Fianna Fail here it could be the case that the former Fianna Fail votes swing towards Keogan rather than Fine Gael/Labour, leaving her to edge out either Hannigan or Byrne for one of the last two seats here.    

 

Meath West (3-seats): Fianna Fáil comfortably won two out of three seats here in 2007, but we’re no longer in Kansas and, especially in the wake of Noel Dempsey’s decision to not contest this election, the party’s ambitions seems focused on attempting to hold on to one of their seats rather than both. Fine Gael harbour ambitions of taking a second seat here, but a three-candidate strategy worked poorly for Fine Gael here in 2007 and the addition of Ray Butler to the Catherine Yore-Damien English may prove counter-productive though it will increase party votes in the Trim area. Sinn Féin (Toibin) and Labour (McHugh) also both have a good chance of winning a seat here and their prospects may ultimately be determined by transfers from the weaker Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael candidates. English is likely to top the poll, the loss of Kells to Meath East could see Shane Cassells and not incumbent, Johnny Brady, being the sole Fianna Fáiler elected her, and transfers might just edge the final seat to Yore ahead of McHugh or Toibin. The political leanings of the Westmeath part of this constituency could prove crucial – this area edged significantly towards Brady in 2007, but if Yore can eat sufficiently into this vote base in 2011 this vote could secure her challenge for the last seat in Meath West.  

Fine Gael gain and Independent/Fianna Fáil loss – Cassells FF, English FG, Yore FG

Potential surprise package: This race effectively boils down to seven serious contenders for the three seats and it will not be a surprise if any of these candidates win a seat.

 

Roscommon-South Leitrim (3-seats): This was a new constituency created ahead of the 2007 General Election, involving the contentious splitting of Leitrim. Excellent vote management helped Fine Gael win two seats here in 2007 and the Feighan/Naughten team looks likely to repeat this feat in the 2011 election. There is an entirely new team for Fianna Fáil (Ivan Connaughton and Cllr. Gerry Kilraine), although the party is repeating their 2007 strategy of running a Roscommon and a South Leitrim candidate. Fianna Fáil came close to winning two seats here in 2007, but their ambitions in 2011 probably amount to trying to ensure that one of their candidates wins a seat here. In trying to do so, Fianna Fáil faces considerable opposition from Labour (John Kelly), Sinn Féin (Martin Kenny) and two strong independent candidates (Luke Ming Flanagan and the Roscommon hospital candidate, John McDermott). Any of these six candidates could take this seat but Kelly might just have enough to edge out Flanagan and the stronger of the two Fianna Fáilers over the closing counts. If McDermott is eliminated early in the count, the destination of his transfer votes could prove crucial, especially in terms of the rivalry between Flanagan and Kelly.  

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Naughten FG, Feighan FG, Kelly LB

Potential surprise package: A hospital candidate, Tom Foxe, held a seat in the old Roscommon and Longford-Roscommon constituencies between 1989 and 1997 and another hospital candidate, Una Quinn, polled well in Longford-Roscommon 2002, so a potential victory for John McDermott cannot be ruled out of the equation.

 

Sligo-North Leitrim (3 seats): Sligo-Leitrim was a four seat constituency up until the 2007 election, at which a contentious decision by the 2004 Constituency Commission to divide Leitrim between two three-seat constituencies, Roscommon-South Leitrm and Sligo-North Leitrim too effect. This left Leitrim facing the prospects of having no TD from the county being returned to the 30th Dáil and that indeed turned out to be the reality, despite Leitrim-based candidates, John Ellis FF in Roscommon-South Leitrim and Michael Comiskey FG in Sligo-North Leitrim, making it to the final count in both of these constituencies. There was sufficient Leitrim population in Roscommon-South Leitrim to elect a Leitrim-based candidate in 2007, but a further boundary change moving some of the South Leitrim territory into Sligo-North Leitrim means this is less of a prospect now. If a Leitrim candidate is to prove successful in 2011, it will probably be Sinn Fein’s north Leitrim based councillor, Michael Colreavy, running in Sligo-North Leitrim.

Fianna Fáil won two seats in 2007 but one of their incumbents, Jimmy Devins, will not be contesting this election – instead of surrendering this seat as in other constituencies, however, Fianna Fáil are replacing him on the ticket with Senator Marc McSharry, son of former Fianna Fáil finance minister, Ray McSharry. It seems unlikely that both he and the other Fianna Fáil incumbent, Eamon Scanlon, will retain both seats and on a bad day for the party the splitting of a reduced Fianna Fáil vote between two candidates could even put both seats in jeapordy as has been suggested by a Labour Party constituency poll published in The Sligo Champion (2nd February). Fine Gael are running two candidates – incumbent John Perry and Sligo town-based councillor, Tony McLaughlin, having missed out on a second seat here in 2007 with a three-candidate strategy; the Sligo Champion poll suggests that they will be in the running for two seats here, but may find they miss the thousands of north Leitrim first preferences Comiskey won in 2007.

Labour has their best chance of winning a seat here since 1992 with their European elections candidate, Susan O’Keeffe, but she faces a challenge not only from Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, but also from four former Labour Party members, Alwyn Love, Veronica Cawley, Gabriel McSharry and former Labour TD Declan Bree, who are all contesting this constituency as independents. The other independents are Dromore-based councillor, Michael Clarke, and Dick Cahill.

Fine Gael faced their own internal disputes also when the north Leitrim members protested against the party not selecting a candidate from their area – as noted the party did come close to two seats in 2007 but this was mainly based on Perry’s running mate (Comiskey) winning a big vote in north Leitrim and this big north Leitrim vote is unlikely to go to Fine Gael to the same degree in 2011 and may well favour Colreavy this time around. If Colreavy can play on his advantage of being the only significant north Leitrim based candidate, and if he can pick up the Sligo town vote of former Sinn Féin candidate and current councillor. Seán McManus, he might be in a position to edge the seat ahead of McLoughlin if he can pick up sufficient transfers from possibly Scanlon, O’Keeffe and the left-leaning independents.    

Gain for Sinn Féin, loss for Fianna Fáil – McSharry FF, Perry FG, Colreavy SF

Potential surprise package: There are a lot of contenders in this constituency with little likely to be between the top and middle ranking contenders – the big surprise here would be if this count is completed all in the one day!   

 

Tipperary North (3-seats): This constituency seems to be relatively straight-forward, with Michael Lowry likely to top the poll again and the final two seats are effectively between the three candidates of the main parties. Alan Kelly’s success in the European elections suggest that he could well take the second seat here for Labour, although success in European elections does not necessarily translate into Dáil elections, as the Louth results in 2007 showed. The final seat is likely to be between two incumbents, Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan and Fianna Fáil’s Máire Hoctor. Boundary changes involving the addition of the south-western tip of Co. Offaly to this constituency will increase the number of local votes for Roscrea-based candidates and could edge this last seat towards Coonan.     

Gain for Sinn Féin, loss for Fianna Fáil – Coonan FG, Kelly LB, Lowry IND

Potential surprise package: Could Lowry support for the outgoing government cost him votes to such a degree that he doesn’t replicate his normal poll-topping performance!

 

Tipperary South (3-seats): Much of the focus here will be on the battle between former Fianna Fáil, and newly independent, incumbent Mattie McGrath, and his former running mate, junior minister Martin Mansergh. But the continuation of the competition between former WUAG colleagues, Seamus Healy and Phil Prendergast (now a Labour candidate) will be equally as significant. The most likely winners in these head-to-heads are McGrath and Healy. Fine Gael seem certain to hold their one seat here with Tom Hayes the likely poll-topper, but on a good day for the party here his running mate, Michael Murphy, could seriously challenge, and indeed edge out, McGrath for the final seat here. 

Fine Gael and WUAG gain, two Fianna Fáil losses – Hayes FG, Murphy FG, Healy WUAG-ULA

Potential surprise package: Are there a sufficient number of Fianna Fáil loyalists here to help Martin Mansergh outpoll McGrath and hold his seat?  

 

Waterford (4-seats): Employing a “burnt earth” strategy, and with Martin Cullen having retired from politics, Fianna Fáil are just running the remaining incumbent, Brendan Kenneally. But whether Kenneally can pull a sufficient level of the old Cullen or Wilkinson vote to hold his seat remains to be seen. The “spare” seat is likely to be claimed by Fine Gael’s Paudie Coffey, while Labour’s Ciara Conway may edge out running mate, Seamus Ryan, in the contest to replace the retiring Brian O’Shea. The second placed Labour candidate, along with Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane, will challenge Kenneally for the final seat. Transfers could edge this last seat towards Culllinane.   

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin gains, two Fianna Fail losses – Deasy FG, Coffey FG, Conway LB, Cullinane SF.

Potential surprise package: It will be interesting to see if any of the independents, especially councillors such as John Halligan, Joe Conway or Tom Higgins, can make a breakthrough here. 

 

Wexford (5-seats): This constituency has traditionally elected two Fianna Fáil candidates, two Fine Gael candidates and one Labour candidate over the past few decades with few exceptions, but there are fears within Fianna Fáil ranks that the party could be down to one, or even no seat, here. Former TD Liam Twomey could be in running to take a third Fine Gael seat here, while the Fianna Fáil incumbents (John Browne and Sean Connick) face intense local opposition from Labour’s Pat Cody and colourful independent, Mick Wallace, respectively. Howlin, D’Arcy and Kehoe should be safe, after that the seats could fall to any two out of the five aforementioned candidates. The order of eliminations and vote transfers will prove crucial here. Connick might just have enough local support in his New Ross base to edge out Wallace and Twomey for the south-western/southern Wexford seat, especially if he is in a position to avail of Browne transfers should the Gilmore Gale blow a second Labour seat, and also the second Enniscorthy seat,  the way of Cody. 

Labour gain and Fianna Fáil loss – Connick FF, D’Arcy FG, Kehoe FG, Howlin LB, Cody LB.

Potential surprise package: Anthony Kelly, Seamus O’Brien and John Dwyer offer a range of options on the left of the Wexford political spectrum and it will be interesting to see if one of these candidates can emerge to make a significant impact in this election. 

 

Wicklow (5-seats): The infamous 1986 Battle of Aughrim will pale in comparison to the conflict likely to erupt in a constituency where 24 candidates will be competing for the five seats and naturally vote transfers will be crucial. Wicklow is a five seat constituency, comprising all of Wicklow corner but also the north eastern corner of Co. Carlow 9which usually offers a strong support base for Billy Timmins) and it is likely to be highly competitive and hard to call, but given the size of the constituency geography is likely to play a key role here. Candidate locations played key role in 2007; all the Fianna Fail candidates were based in coastal, eastern and urbanised, part of the county – Behan/Roche (Bray/Greystones) and Fitzgerald (Arklow), all the Fine Gael candidates (Timmins, Doyle) were based in the rural and western parts of the county, leading to a very distinct east-west divide. All these candidates are running again – Fine Gael are also running young Greystones based councillor Simon Harris (one of their younger candidates), but Behan, after winning a seat for Fianna Fáil in 2007, left the party to go independent some time after. Labour held a seat here with Liz McManus -herself a former Democratic Left party member – during the 2000s and she is now retiring – Labour are running three candidates here – Anne Ferris, Tom Fortune and Conall Kavanagh – with a view to gaining a second seat. The Greens enjoyed serious ambitions of taking a seat here in 2007 but ultimately these did not come to pass and their 2007 candidate, former Senator, Deirdre de Burca, has left the party – they are running Niall Byrne who is also up against two members of Fis Nua, a break-away group from the Greens.

Some of the fourteen independents running here will harbour serious ambitions of winning a seat, including former Labour candidate, Nicky Kelly, and Stephen Donnelly, but it is Joe Behan, who won a seat here as a Fianna Fáil candidate in 2007 before subsequently leaving the party, who will be the strongest of these and his presence in the field could result in Fianna Fáil being left without a seat here. Labour and Fine Gael both harbour ambitions of gaining extra seats here. The addition of Simon Harris balances the highly rural-based 2007 Fine Gael ticket in terms of age and geography, but if Labour can tap into the old McManus and Kavanagh vote bases here then they could be the ones to make the gain.

Labour and Independent gain, two Fianna Fáil losses (relative to standings in 2007)Timmins FG, Harris FG, Ferris LB, Kavanagh LB, Behan IND   

Based on these constituency estimates, I would guesstimate seat levels to fall as follows:

  FF FG LB GP SF OTH FEMALE
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1       2
Cavan-Monaghan 1 2     2   2
Clare 1 2       1  
Cork East 1 2 1        
Cork North Central 1 1 2       1
Cork North West 1 2          
Cork South Central 1 3 1        
Cork South West 1 1 1        
Donegal North East 1 1     1    
Donegal South West 1 1     1   1
Dublin Central   1 1   1 1 2
Dublin Mid West 1 1 2       1
Dublin North 1 1 1 1      
Dublin North Central   1 1     1  
Dublin North East 1 1 1       1
Dublin North West 1   2        
Dublin South   2 1 1   1 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 2   1   1
Dublin South East   2 2       1
Dublin South West 1 1 1   1    
Dublin West 1 1 1     1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 1 1     1 1
Galway East 1 2 1       1
Galway West 1 2 1     1 2
Kerry North-West Limerick   1 1   1    
Kerry South   1 1     1  
Kildare North 1 1 1     1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1        
Laois-Offaly 2 2     1   1
Limerick City 1 2 1       1
Limerick    1 2          
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1       1
Louth 2 2 1        
Mayo 1 4         2
Meath East 1 1 1        
Meath West 1 2         1
Roscommon-South Leitrim   2 1        
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 1     1    
Tipperary North   1 1     1  
Tipperary South   2       1  
Waterford   2 1   1   1
Wexford 1 2 2        
Wicklow   2 2     1 1
  35 67 39 2 11 12 27
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3 Responses to “General Election 2011: Constituency Reviews and Predictions (Updated)”

  1. Red-C/Sunday Business Post poll, 6th February 2011 – seat estimates and Fianna Fail selections « politicalreform.ie Says:

    […] (Outside of this, and other polls analyses, my own take on the constituencies and likely results in….) […]

  2. Mark Farrelly Says:

    Humphries instead of Conlan for FG in Cavan/Monaghan… I’d nearly put my house on it..if i owned one!

  3. bangor daily news Says:

    bangor daily news…

    […]General Election 2011: Constituency Reviews and Predictions (Updated) « Adrian Kavanagh's Blog[…]…

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