With this poll suggesting it will go to outgoing Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher, it is way too close to call for sure in his favour or that of Cork County Council member John Gilroy.
Both are from the Glanmire area, barely outside the city’s north east boundary, in what is perceived as a largely urban constituency.
But around half the votes in Cork North Central are outside the city, with possibly more this time around after the transfer since 2007 of an additional population of 4,000 from two electoral districts previously in Cork North West’s Macroom and Mallow regions.
While a mix of ideological and geographical influences appear to influence the transfer patterns, the support of almost two-thirds of voters in the Irish Examiner/RedC poll for candidates from the left will probably be the identified as the strongest factor in the last seat’s destination when the eventual outcome is analysed.
Around 70,000 voters in Cork North Central will have a choice of two Labour hopefuls (outgoing TD Kathleen Lynch and Gilroy), Jonathan O’Brien of Sinn Féin, who represents the north west ward in the city council, Socialist Party poll-topper in the 2009 local elections Mick Barry and veteran Workers Party candidate Ted Tynan.
The transfer analysis table here gives an estimation of how the findings of the Irish Examiner/RedC poll would tally on count day if the same valid poll of almost 42,350 as in 2007 is recorded next week.
Although improving well on his 2007 total of 263, Tynan’s almost 800 votes from the Red C poll would make little difference in the final shake-up, with his transfers split closely between Barry, O’Brien, Lynch and his fellow north east ward councillor Dara Murphy.
However, the subsequent elimination of Mick Barry after the sixth count looks likely to carry Lynch well across the line. In 2007, almost one-third of his 1,844 transfers went to Jonathan O’Brien and slightly more to Lynch.
The poll today, however, has his supporters leaning more to the Sinn Féin candidate with nearly half of a suggested 4,000 votes going to the Farranree man. But although he would give Kathleen Lynch 1,600 votes and the first seat, a mere 200 votes to Gilroy would see the Labour man still trying to bridge the gap to Kelleher that stands at 800 after the first count.
What Barry’s elimination would do, however, is to give O’Brien a clear lift out of the stalemate he looks like being in with Fine Gael county councillor Pat Burton after the first handful or more counts. That boost would be enough to see him confident of subsequent election, albeit without reaching the quota, as it would vault him well above Kelleher and Gilroy.
All of this time, they will have gained little momentum to separate them significantly and it could well be the size of Lynch’s surplus around Count 8 that will finally decide which of the two still-standing Glanmire candidates gets the seat a few rounds later.
On the basis of this poll, however, not enough party-aligned votes will be picked up by Gilroy as half of Lynch’s transfers look like going to fellow city candidate O’Brien.
Kelleher, for his part, does poorly on transfers from either side of the political divide, so he will have to keep his fingers crossed that the strong positive influence of his fellow Corkman Micheál Martin as party leader is maintained until voting day. But while an equally high one-fifth of his first preferences are reliant on his stance on local issues, depending on a high turnout from Glanmire will not necessarily work in his favour as almost half of Gilmore’s No 1s look to derive from his own work in the area.
Burton’s survival until count nine or thereabouts may be all but a formality as he picks up little enough in the transfer market in the early stages. While party preferences is the third-highest reason among those polled for their first choice of candidate, it is the strongest factor for those giving a first preference to Pat Burton.
If this finding pans out, the only difference he will make is to the surplus party colleague Dara Murphy gets in with. But the RedC figures showing Burton give the former lord mayor an enormous 3,280 transfers could have little effect again on the final say, as Murphy’s subsequent 1,000 transfers look to split evenly to Kelleher and Gilroy.
With neither Fine Gael candidate giving enough of a lift to either Gilroy or Kelleher to guarantee election, the Irish Examiner/RedC poll has Kelleher shading it by a mere 99 votes, hardly definitive with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%.
The eventual outcome will be key to the make-up of both sides of the Dáil chamber after March 9, with an almost certain gain for Sinn Féin and the potential for two Fianna Fáil seats to be lost (given Noel O’Flynn has stood down). When considered with the alternative of Labour not managing its vote sufficiently to pick up a new seat and banish Fine Gael’s single-party government ambitions, various party headquarters will be watching this one count-for-count on February 26.
Based on these findings, their local tallymen should advise them to tune in for the announcements of how Barry’s votes and Lynch’s transfers are distributed.