Fianna Fáil faces disaster. Fine Gael and Labour together will be the only possible durable coalition outcome. Sinn Féin and the Left Wing Alliance will achieve a cohesive cohort of TDs to provide a platform for future growth. It’s goodbye to the Greens.
The damage for Fianna Fáil starts with seats they have already conceded, ie TDs who are not standing and/or FF has contracted the ticket in that constituency. These are: MJ Nolan (Carlow Kilkenny) Rory O’Hanlon (Cavan Monaghan), Tony Killeen (Clare), Noel O’Flynn (Cork North Central) Batt O’Keeffe (Cork North West), Niall Blaney/Jim McDaid — one seat (Donegal North East), Bertie Ahern (Dublin Central), Noel Ahern (Dublin North West), Tom Kitt/ late Seamus Brennan — one seat (Dublin South), Sean Ardagh (Dublin South Central), Noel Treacy (Galway East), Brian Cowen (Laois/Offaly), John Cregan (Limerick), Beverley Flynn (Mayo), Mary Wallace (Meath East), Noel Dempsey (Meath West), Jimmy Devins (Sligo/North Leitrim), Martin Cullen (Waterford).
The above 18-seat loss is followed by a list of untenable seats. FF are contesting, but acknowledge the impossibility of retaining all seats, preferring if one candidate less to stand in order to secure a remaining seat. This seat loss applies to: Cork East, Dublin North, Dublin South West, Dun Laoghaire, Kildare South and Limerick City. In Wicklow, FF only has a prospect of one seat (Dick Roche). Joe Behan’s original FF seat will be lost to the party. Similarly, Mattie McGrath’s defection in Tipperary South has to be added to the list. These eight losses bring the running total to 26.
The latest momentum of opinion polls indicates Micheál Martin’s impact as the new leader amounts to a dead cat bounce. FF strategists’ ambition was to recover to 25% vote share (as obtained in the 2009 local elections). Key development? It seems the “don’t knows” are only undecided as to which non-FF party to opt for. They are not disposed to FF. This means allocating the “don’t knows” (previously of up to 1 in 3) on the basis of the “do knows” was incorrect. This means another swathe of seats in three-seat constituencies are un-winnable. These include Sean Haughey (Dublin North Central), Averil Power (Michael Woods’ old seat), Tom McEllistrim (Kerry North), John O’Donoghue (Kerry South), Máire Hoctor (Tipperary North), Martin Mansergh (Tipperary South). This brings the overall loss to 32. Further losses are possible in holding the second seat in five-seat constituencies of Carlow/Kilkenny, Cavan/Monaghan, Cork South Central, Galway West, Laois Offaly and Wexford. Private constituency polls reveal FF at 10%-13% in urban and inner city areas. If this materialises, additional seats will be lost in Dublin North West (Pat Carey), Cork North Central (Billy Kelleher), Dublin South East (Chris Andrews), Waterford (Brendan Kenneally), Louth and Roscommon where both have new comers. Worst case scenario? Fianna Fáil is guaranteed only 20 seats. Decades of ground work will be lost to the party through departures of big names who operated personal fiefdoms.
This election, while resulting in an FG-Labour government can provide notable gains for the left-wing parties. Sinn Féin is assured of holding its five outgoing seats and have probable winners in Peadar Toibín (Meath West), Padraig MacLochlainn (Donegal North East), Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central), Sean Crowe (Dublin South West), Brian Stanley (Laois Offaly), Larry O’Toole (Dublin North West) and Dessie Ellis (Dublin North East). Don’t discount five further victories:, with David Cullinan (Waterford), Kathleen Funchion (Carlow Kilkenny), Katherine Reilly (Cavan Monaghan), Jonathan O’Brien (Cork North Central) and Maurice Quinlivan (Limerick City). SF can win 14 seats. Probable new socialist TDs are Joe Higgins, (Dublin Mid West), Clare Daly (Dublin North), Catherine Murphy (Kildare North), Richard Boyd Barret (Dun Laoghaire) and Seamus Healy (Tipperary South). Possibilities include Joan Collins (Dublin South Central), Catherine Connelly (Galway West) and Luke Ming Flanagan (Roscommon) to join incumbents Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central) and Maureen O’Sullivan (Dublin Central). A significant protest vote can comprise more than 20 TDs. The Greens are on course to lose all six of their seats.
Labour look likely to win 35 seats. They look certain to hold all 20 seats, only a doubt surrounds Waterford. Brian O’Shea’s late withdrawal combined with dual candidate tensions may result in Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil edging them out for the last seat. They have nine certain gains: Carlow/Kilkenny (possibly Des Hurley), Brendan Ryan (Dublin North), Aodhan O’Riordan (Dublin North Central), Alex White (Dublin South) Eric Byrne (Dublin South Central) Arthur Spring (Kerry North), Ged Nash (Louth), Dominic Hannigan (Meath East) and Alan Kelly (Tipperary North). An additional six wins is achievable from this slate of constituencies: John Mulvihill (Cork East), Michael McCarthy (Cork West), a second seat in Dublin South and Dublin South Central, Kevin Humprhies (Dublin South East), John Whelan (Laois/Offaly), Mai Sexton (Longford).
The big winner will be Fine Gael. By how much? They should hold their outgoing 51 seats without too many problems. Eight certain gains are Carlow/Kilkenny, Cavan/Monaghan, Cork North West, Dublin Central, Dublin Mid West, Dublin North West, Kildare South and Waterford. 9 winnable seats are: Cork East, Cork North Central, a second seat in Dublin Mid West, Eoghan Murphy (Dublin South East), Dublin South Central, Dun Laoghaire, a second seat in Galway West, a second seat in Longford Westmeath (Nicky McFadden) and Louth (Peter Fitzpatrick). There are an additional six, five-seat constituencies where they harbour ambitions of a majority of the seats. On balance a total tally of 68 is my best guess. They are currently confident they can achieve 72 deputies.
Dark horses to watch? New FG names to note as winners who may dislodge sitting TDs are Simon Harris (Wicklow) and Michelle Mulherin (Mayo) at the expense of sitting Deputy, John O’Mahoney. Independents James Breen (Clare), Shane Ross (Dublin South) and Michael Kilcoyne (Mayo) are hotly tipped locally to win personal victories. Rare new arrivals for Fianna Fáil can include Barry Cowen (Laois Offaly) and Senator James Carroll (Louth).
My most optimistic FF tally is: FG 69, Labour 35, Fianna Fáil 35, Sinn Féin 14 and Independents 13. When FF and SF are government options are excluded, this arithmetic leaves only one possible government. FG and Labour’s minimum total of 104 seats can provide a Ceann Comhairle (Sean Barrett or Brendan Howlin are favourites) and a resultant working majority of 20. This facilitates shrinkage — a handful of back bench deputies becoming temperamentally unsuited to the party whip system. They can be cast overboard to life as an independent. Kenny and Gilmore will want above all, to ensure a full five-year term. The age profile of both party hierarchies means this is personally their last career chance at an extended period of power, following 13 barren years in opposition. Expect the season of springtime to include political courtship and mating thereafter.