By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter
Social Democrats co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall have insisted the party can win seven seats in Friday's General Election - thereby gaining key speaking rights in the next Dáil.
The TDs made the claim during the recently formed party's final press conference of the campaign outside Leinster House this morning, despite independent analyst predictions their opinion poll growth may not be reflected in seat numbers.
While the Social Democrats currently has three TDs in the form of Ms Murphy, Ms Shortall and Stephen Donnelly and believes Niall O Thuathail in Galway West/South Mayo, ex-Labour senator James Heffernan in Limerick County and Sarah Jane Hennelly in Limerick City, among others, are in contention.
Speaking at the launch today, Ms Shortall said she believes "many" of Social Democrats' 14 candidates across the country "are in serious contention at this stage" and that "we're targeting at least seven seats on Saturday [when vote counting begins]" as this is the figure which allows set speaking rights for a party in the Dáil.
Asked if a result in which the party returns just its three existing TDs after the surge in poll support during the campaign would be considered a failure, Ms Murphy added: "We realise we only launched very recently, we're very hopeful from the canvass returns we will improve.
"You can feel it on the ground, the recognition of the candidate and the party now.
"The election is wide open, but we're certainly not looking beyond polling day."
Meanwhile, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy - who said their co-leader colleague Mr Donnelly was in Galway and Limerick supporting candidates - have hit out at the Government parties for misreading what the public wanted from the election, a situation they said has led to voters moving their support to groups like the Social Democrats.
"I believe the Government parties have seriously misjudged the mood of the electorate in this campaign," said Ms Shortall.
"They got off to a very bad start, they thought it was just a matter of saying they'll keep the recovery going and most people were saying what recovery, they hadn't felt it.
"They also thought people just wanted tax cuts, and again they misjudged the public mood in that regard.
"I think it's very interesting to see what happened in the [RTÉ TV leaders] debate last night, as the debate went on more and more people switched off.
"There was bickering and old style politics, and people are fed up with that."