FF hoping it can 'vote manage' for second Clare seat
Can Labour TD Michael McNamara defy the national trend and hold on?
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's efforts to win back a second seat depend on Deputy Timmy Dooley's as-yet-unproven ability to 'vote-share'. And there will also be an interesting secondary battle between the two other Fianna Fáil candidates.
Fine Gael has a big fight on its hands to hold its two seats, currently held by Joe Carey and Pat Breen.
Labour TDs have been scarce in Clare's political history. McNamara's win in the 2011 'Gilmore Gale' followed on from the win by Moosajee Bhamjee in the 1992 'Spring Tide'. Locally, McNamara has at times been styled as the "semi-detached Labour TD".
Some believe his marriage to Sarah Hillery, grand-daughter of former president and Clare Fianna Fáil TD Patrick Hillery can help. Back in 2011 he was actually running against his future father-in-law, Dr John Hillery. McNamara is not shy about his "semi-detached" image. "I believe in the party's policies. But my mandate is from the people of Clare and I vote according to that," he said.
Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley will have a very strong vote. The party's challenge will be to 'vote manage' as it fields two other candidates with strong personalities.
Ennis-based Cllr Clare Colleran-Molloy is a first-time councillor who comes from a large family based in Quin. Michael "Malty" McDonagh is current Clare GAA Board chairman and a retired Garda from Milltown Malbay.
There is keen rivalry between the two outgoing Fine Gael incumbents, Pat Breen and Joe Carey, both of whom are close to the biggest population centre, Ennis. But they are both experienced campaigners and the party machine will be mobilised.
Sinn Féin will field Noeleen Moran from Ballyvaughan who impressed in the 2014 locals and almost took a council seat.
The potential impact of community activist Cllr Ann Norton will also be closely watched. From Barefield, Ms Norton runs the Clare Crusaders therapy service for special needs children and could have a considerable vote with transfers impacting on the later seats.
Similarly, the impact of Dr Michael Harty, who declared last month, will be watched with interest. He is based in Kilmihil, where he has practised for many years and is standing on the 'No Doctor, No Village' banner. PREDICTION: 2 FG, 2 FF.
FG Pat Breen TD, FG Joe Carey TD, FG Mary Howard LAB Michael McNamara TD, FF Timmy Dooley TD, FF Michael McDonagh, FF Clare Colleran Molloy, SF Noeleen Moran, GP Fergal Smith, IND Ann Norton, IND Dermot Mulqeen, IND Richard Cahill, IND Ian Lynch, IND Michael Harty, IND Andre Sibo Hakizimana, FÍS NUA Niamh O'Brien