FF ‘may lose’ Donegal seats

LEADING political analyst Sean Donnelly has predicted Fianna Fáil could lose all seats in the two Co Donegal constituencies, including Tánaiste Mary Coughlan’s.

As anger mounted among Fine Gael rank-and-file after only one candidate was selected to contest Donegal South West against the Tánaiste, Mr Donnelly said she and Niall Blaney in Donegal North East could face difficulties in holding their seats.

With FF support across the country plunging drastically Mr Donnelly, a native of Letterkenny, said that with the party rating nationally below 14% it was not looking good for the traditional FF stronghold in Co Donegal.

The party would need to keep its vote above 20% in Donegal to avoid wipe-out in the county.

He said: “Mary Coughlan has an extra problem having Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill as a running mate. His profile has been considerably raised in the by-election. His vote could be close to hers on the first count and they could lose out altogether. Her only hope is that she gets more first preferences than him.”

In the other Donegal constituency, Senator Cecilia Keaveney said yesterday she was not formally told of Fianna Fáil’s convention in Donegal NE on Thursday although she was a candidate for selection. She said she didn’t understand why she was not approached either locally or nationally about the general election and will not be attending the meeting at which councillor Charlie McConalogue is the other nominee to run alongside Mr Blaney.

Mr Donnelly said: “A two-candidate strategy could result in their not taking a seat at all.”

Meanwhile, local Fine Gael members in Donegal South West reacted angrily to a decision from Dublin to run only one candidate.

TD Dinny McGinley, 65, was chosen at a convention in Glenties on Sunday night when he defeated by-election candidate Barry O’Neill, 37, in a secret ballot of 300 delegates.

Party leaders were bitterly disappointed with RTÉ sports producer Mr O’Neill’s by-election performance in November, although he insisted his second behind Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty was credible. There was much complaint about the single-candidate decision failing to capitalise on the Fianna Fáil crisis.

John Meehan, a former chairman of Ballyshannon Town Council, who withdrew his own nomination before the vote, was applauded when he said: “We have the Fianna Fáil government on its knees. We should be pushing for a second seat. We’re afraid to take risks.”

Analyst Mr Donnelly said there will be a seat for Sinn Féin and Fine Gael in each of the three-seat constituencies. He said Labour candidate Jimmy Harte — son of former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte — could take the third seat in Donegal NE.

Mr Donnelly said Labour problems in Donegal SW — where Frank McBrearty is running — could help Fianna Fáil.

Independent Thomas Pringle is buoyant about his general election prospects.

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