Premier panic for FG in wake of local Lowry backlash
Published 08/02/2016 | 02:30
Fine Gael is in panic in Tipperary as Independent TD Michael Lowry is "cleaning out" the party's vote in the wake of the attacks on the former minister.
A local poll conducted by the party says support for the disgraced former minister has actually grown following criticism of him on the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal.
And Environment Minister Alan Kelly is in a scrap for the last seat, the poll indicates.
The poll puts Mr Lowry on 28pc of the support across the Premier County - equating to about 20,000 votes.
"Lowry is cleaning out votes since the Dublin media jumped on him. He was already strong in North Tipp, but now he's gone heavily into South Tipp as well.
"He's going to get an enormous vote. It's going to be phenomenal. It's really serious stuff for us," a senior Fine Gael source told the Irish Independent.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny finally ruled out doing a deal with his former Cabinet colleague to support a minority Fine Gael-lead government.
But the effect has been negative for Fine Gael locally as party support has drifted for Mr Lowry.
"For the sake of the party at a national level, he had to be ruled out. But it's done damage to Fine Gael in Tipperary," the source said.
Fine Gael is now chasing just one seat in the county. The party currently holds two seats and now junior minister Tom Hayes and fellow TD Noel Coonan are neck and neck, but without anywhere near enough votes to challenge for two seats.
The party strategy of running a third candidate, Marie Murphy, has backfired and is splitting the vote.
Fine Gael's campaign locally is now, bizarrely, having to focus on winning back its own voters from Mr Lowry.
The party poll also shows Mr Kelly, the Labour Party deputy leader, in a fight for the last seat with Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Sinn Féin candidate Seamus Morris.
Fianna Fáil will take back a seat, according to the poll.
Michael Smith Jnr, the son of former minister Michael Smith Snr, is ahead of running mates Jackie Cahill and Siobhán Ambrose.
But Mr Cahill is said to have "momentum", compared to previous polls conducted by the party, and is not so far behind for Mr Smith to be comfortable.
Independent Seamus Healy of the Workers and Unemployed Action Group is also firmly in contention to retain his seat.
The old Tipperary North and South are unified into one constituency for the first time in this General Election.
But the six sitting TDs are all running for just five seats and Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, who don't currently hold seats, are also in the frame.
The poll findings on the overall destination of the seats is reasonably in line with predictions.
Independents were expected to take two seats.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were also favoured to win at least one seat.
The final seat was always regarded as being up for grabs.
From the Coalition's perspective, the danger is it will only return with one seat out of five.
Mr Lowry was always expected to be elected and probably top the poll.
What's surprising is the growth in his support and the backlash against Fine Gael.
Mr Lowry will have a substantial surplus so the destination of his transfers will now prove vital to the outcome.
Since his departure from Fine Gael in 1996, he has topped the poll every time in the old Tipperary North constituency.
Mr Lowry got 29pc of the poll and 14,000 votes at the last election.
The unification of the county, with the loss of part of it to Offaly, was expected to slightly weaken his position.