Home turf could offer some rare good tidings to Kenny and Fine Gael
Fine Gael's embattled TD Michelle Mulherin looks set to hold her seat as the party is predicted to take more than half the first-preference vote in Mayo, a new poll today reveals.
All eyes will be on a 'battle of three women' for the fourth and final seat in four-seat Mayo, reduced from five seats last time. These are Michelle Mulherin of Fine Gael, Cllr Lisa Chambers of Fianna Fáil and Cllr Rose Conway Walsh of Sinn Féin.
Ms Mulherin has argued that the third Fine Gael seat is vital locally - but it could be indicative of the party's ability to return to government next time.
Indications of a positive outcome here offer some scarce good news for Fine Gael strategists as its national campaign is struggling to find its footing so far.
"I never take voters for granted. But I think three out of four is highly do-able and we're working for that," Ms Mulherin told the Irish Independent.
Three out of four would, with a total of 56pc of first preferences, compare very well with the four out of five last time for Fine Gael.
Enda Kenny's Fine Gael were rampant here in 2011, and he took a record 17,742 first preferences as putative Taoiseach. Overall, the party had 65pc of the vote, taking that incredible four of the five seats.
Mayo's reduction from five to four seats also involved the loss of an area with more than 7,000 voters south of Ballinrobe, which went into Galway West in the boundary redraw. In addition to that, Fine Gael suffered from over-heightened expectations post-2011, and the sluggishness of the economic pick-up in that county.
Fine Gael has been working hard locally to address that perception over the past year. Today's survey suggests it may be succeeding.
Fine Gael strategists' move to consolidate, moving former football manager John O'Mahony to Galway West, also appears to have been effective. The Millward Brown poll for the Irish Independent shows Enda Kenny winning on 24pc; though he will be closely coursed by the political phenomenon that is Michael Ring on 23pc. Ms Mulherin is set for a major scramble for that final seat, but looks good on 9pc, and her success continues to turn on how much help the other two heavy-hitters give her.
Ms Mulherin shares the smaller Ballina base with Dara Calleary of Fianna Fáil, who is well dug in and showing up well on 19pc. However, Fianna Fáil's second candidate is Cllr Lisa Chambers, tipped as a rising star - but on 8pc she may be struggling with efforts to revive the party's previously strong Castlebar base.
Sinn Féin hopes Mayo can be one of its breakthrough constituencies and is putting in a big campaign for Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh of Bellmullet, who is today shown on 11pc. This would not be enough to take a seat, and her location, in the northwest of the constituency, may be adding to her difficulties. In 2011, the party had two candidates here polling a combined 5,000 votes and had hoped Ms Conway-Walsh would be stronger.
Independent Dr Jerry Cowley, a TD from 2002 to 2007, and linked to the 'No Doctor - No Village' campaign, is showing poorly on 3pc. Despite months of speculation, no strong Independent candidate has emerged. 'Mayo Independents First' held a series of meetings last summer seeking a candidate. It is fielding two: George O'Malley of Newport and Peter Jordan from Ballina.
There were three late entries last week. These were non-party candidates Stephen Manning, Ballyhaunis, a founder of Integrity Ireland, Sean Forkan, Charlestown, and Bangladeshi native Mohammad Kamal Uddin of Castlebar. Margaret Sheehan of Claremorris is standing for the Green Party, and Michael Farrington from Kiltimagh is standing for Renua Ireland, led by Lucinda Creighton. AAA-PBP is running Tom Moran, an aviation engineer from Westport.
FG Enda Kenny TD, FG Michelle Mulherin TD, FG Michael Ring TD, FF Dara Calleary TD, FF Lisa Chambers, SF Rose Conway Walsh, GP Margaret Sheehan, Renua Michael Farrington, PBAAA Tom Moran, IND Jerry Cowley, IND Kamal Uddin, IND Gerry O'Boyle, IND
Prediction: Fine Gael (3); Fianna Fáil (1).