Fine Gael (2), Fianna Fail (1). Final seat a battle royale betwen Sinn Féin/Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael.
ALL eyes will be on a potential “battle of three women” for the fourth and final seat. These are outgoing TD, Michelle Mulherin of Fine Gael, Cllr Lisa Chambers of Fianna Fáil and Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin.
Ms Mulherin argues that the third Fine Gael seat is vital locally and could be indicative of their ability to return to government next time. “I never take voters for granted. But I think three out of four is highly do-able and we’re working for that,” she told Independent.ie.
Three out of four would compare well with the four out of five last time for Fine Gael. But the late entry of a strong independent candidate may also shake things up.
Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael were rampant in February 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.
Firstly, Mayo goes from five to four seats as an area with some 7,000 voters south of Ballinrobe has gone into Galway West in the boundary re-draw. Secondly, Fine Gael suffered from over-heightened expectations post 2011, and the sluggishness of economic recovery in that county in common with other regions outside Dublin.
Fine Gael strategists have consolidated, moving John O’Mahony to Galway West. The party bosses expect Enda Kenny as Taoiseach to win, though he will be closely coursed by the political phenomenon that is Michael Ring. Michelle Mulherin is set for a major scramble for that final seat and her success may turn on how much help the other two give her.
Ms Mulherin shares the smaller Ballina base with Dara Calleary of Fianna Fail, who is well dug in and expected to win. Fianna Fail’s second candidate is Cllr Lisa Chambers, tipped as a rising star, and trying to revive the party’s previously strong Castlebar base hopes of winning through.
Sinn Féin hopes that Mayo can be one of its breakthrough constituencies and is putting in a big campaign for Cllr Rose Conway Walsh of Bellmullet. The imponderable is what independent candidate(s) will field. Doubts persist about the intentions of former SIPTU official and consumer activist, Michael Kilcoyne, who got a record vote in the 2014 council elections.
“Mayo Independents First” held a series of county-wide meetings during the summer seeking a candidate. Latest word is that they may field two candidates, possibly George O’Malley of Newport and/or Peter Jordan from Ballina.