SF candidate surges ahead in by-election race
SINN Fein's Pearse Doherty yesterday became the overwhelming favourite to win the Donegal South-West by-election after an opinion poll put him way ahead of his rivals.
Ominously for Fianna Fail, the party's vote is down 32pc since the last general election, with its candidate, Brian O Domhnaill, on just 19pc.
Fianna Fail was relying on their traditionally strong support to stay in contention and a collapse in the vote will give the party a real fright.
Fine Gael's performance in the by-election is also poor, according to the poll conducted by Red C for Paddy Power bookmakers.
The party's candidate, Barry O'Neill, is polling in third place and is barely ahead of Labour's Frank McBrearty -- even though that party does not have a strong base in the constituency.
Mr Doherty is taking 40pc of the first-preference vote. He is followed by Mr O Domhnaill on 19pc. Mr O'Neill is on 15pc and Mr McBrearty on 14pc, but the transfer analysis is set to push Labour ahead.
Finishing fourth in the by-election would be a disastrous result for Fine Gael.
Labour's surge in support can be substantially put down to party leader Eamon Gilmore being by far the favoured choice for Taoiseach.
Almost one in two voters in the constituency (46pc) believe Mr Gilmore will make the best Taoiseach -- ahead of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny on 18pc and Taoiseach Brian Cowen on 13pc.
If Labour can put in a strong performance in a constituency where it has no traditional support base, it will be a major warning shot ahead of the General Election.
When asked how they would vote in the next General Election, Fianna Fail also got just 19pc of the vote. However, by-election candidates tend to be on people's minds when asked about how they would vote in a general election.
Immediately after the poll findings were published, Mr Doherty's odds were slashed to a very prohibitive 1-8.
But that did not stop punters from plunging further on the Sinn Fein candidate and within 10 minutes Paddy Power had tightened the odds to 1-11.
Last March, Mr Doherty was available at a generous 5-6.
In contrast, Mr O Domhnaill has drifted out from 5-2 in March to 9-2, despite one bet of €1,000 and several €500 wagers shortly after he was selected as the FF candidate. Mr O'Neill opened up at 13-8 but is now on offer at 9-1, with Mr McBrearty remaining on 14-1.