Saturday 22 October 2016

Sinn Féin hopes of taking three seats in Donegal dealt blow in TG4 opinion poll

Greg Harkin

Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30

Councillor Gary Doherty putting up posters in Lifford, Co Donegal. Photo: Mark Condren
Councillor Gary Doherty putting up posters in Lifford, Co Donegal. Photo: Mark Condren

Some political observers in the county think it's madness for Sinn Féin to have three candidates in the field for this one, but when you talk to members of the organisation, they feel they can pull it off.

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A TG4 opinion poll last night suggested only Pearse Doherty is guaranteed a seat, with Padraig Mac Lochlainn struggling.

The poll is a blow to hopes the party could get three seats, with Cllr Gary Doherty also on the ticket.

"We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we could do it," says Cllr Doherty.

"We know it's a risky strategy but we also know that if we can get the vote out, it is possible."

Donegal's two three-seat constituencies have been scrapped. Now most of the county is in one new five-seater, with everywhere south of Ballintra lumped in with Sligo/Leitrim, and bits of west Cavan.

Private party opinion polls and the TG4 poll show former MEP and ex-TD Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher almost certain to return to the Dáil. But that could be at the expense of sitting TD and Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

The strength of the Fianna Fáil vote in Donegal will decide that.

Sitting Fine Gael TD and junior Gaeltacht Minister Joe McHugh is struggling in the same private polls, his case not helped by the inclusion of Paddy Harte Jnr who is going after votes in the same areas as McHugh.

With Dinny McGinley retiring, Fine Gael will lose one seat and could well lose both. There's no shortage of Independents wanting to represent Donegal either.

Sitting TD Thomas Pringle sneaked in last time thanks to poor Fianna Fáil vote management. He will struggle to make it this time among a clatter of other Independent voices.

Among them are former Labour Party councillor Frank McBrearty and Independent Alliance councillor Niamh Kennedy, the latter from Pringle's home town of Killybegs.

Solicitor Dessie Shiels is hardly known outside Letterkenny but he will mop up votes in the county's biggest town where the main parties don't have an indigenous candidate.

There will be some question marks over the TG4 opinion poll which last night suggested Sinn Féin would struggle to hold two seats, never mind land a third. The MRBI poll tipped Fianna Fáil to win two seats.

For Sinn Féin it has Pearse Doherty on 19pc, his fellow TD Pádraig MacLochlainn on 9pc, and their third candidate Gary Doherty is on 2pc.

Charlie McConalogue is on 17pc with Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher on 13pc.

Outgoing junior minister Joe McHugh is on 13pc and FG's second candidate Paddy Harte is on 4pc. Doubt surrounds the fate of outgoing Independent TD Thomas Pringle on 7pc.


Irish Independent

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