Monday 24 October 2016

There were surprises in every part of the State

Plenty of shocks as Fine Gael is punished and Labour fights for its life, writes Shane Coleman

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

WATCHING AND WAITING: Labour candidate for Dublin Central Joe Costello speaks to the media. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
WATCHING AND WAITING: Labour candidate for Dublin Central Joe Costello speaks to the media. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

What a truly extraordinary election. Scratch that. It's been 40 extraordinary elections. Almost every one of the constituencies has thrown up surprises. Some more than others. Who would have thought Fianna Fail would be in the shake-up for three seats in Carlow-Kilkenny? Or that it could win two seats in Cork North-West? Or that it would likely win four out of seven seats in Kildare, like it did in 2007?

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At the time of writing, much is still to be decided, but there is no doubt about the patterns that are emerging. Regardless of how the final numbers shape up, Fianna Fail and Micheal Martin have had an incredible election result.

To break 40 seats, as it seems likely to do, wasn't predicted by too many. Independents and 'others' have also had a fantastic result.

Fine Gael has done worse than anybody predicted, though they might get lucky in some constituencies and hold some seats that, strictly speaking, they shouldn't.

For Labour, we are this weekend talking about the actual survival of the party, as it could be left with just five TDs. Sinn Fein has done well, but certainly not as well as it had looked last summer.

Carlow-Kilkenny may well throw up the biggest surprise of the lot. It had been widely predicted as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael winning two seats, with Sinn Fein taking Ann Phelan's Labour seat.

While Labour's vote collapsed, Fine Gael now looks on the verge of being left with just one deputy in a constituency where it had three in 2011.

FG may yet hold its second seat in Cavan-Monaghan but it is proving a lot tighter than anybody would have expected a few weeks back and FF can't be ruled out of a second seat.

In Clare, the strength of Independents was evident with Michael Harty of the 'no GP, no village' campaign poised to comfortably take a seat at the expense of Labour.

In Cork East, Sean Sherlock may just buck the national trend against Labour and hold on. It may end up being between FG and Sinn Fein for the final seat there, with FF guaranteed to win back a seat.

Cork North-Central looks like one of a number of constituencies where FF will regret not running a second candidate. Billy Kelleher may well have brought in a running mate. The initial tallies showing Mick Barry taking a seat were an early indication that AAA-PBP was on course for a really good day.

Cork North-West summed up the Fianna Fail comeback. This was widely tipped at either 2FG-IFF or 1FG, 1FF or 1 Independent. But, at the time of writing, the two Moynihans - Michael and Aindrias - are poised to take two seats for FF.

Micheal Martin and Michael McGrath were always going to hold their two seats. But it sums up Fine Gael's day that Jerry Buttimer is in a battle with SF for the last seat.

Cork South West looks like it will finally elect a woman TD with FF's Margaret Murphy-O'Mahony coming through. Again, FG is under pressure from an Independent to hold its second seat.

Donegal had been seen as SF's best ticket in the country. But it hasn't turned out that way and it is Fianna Fail that has really taken back the initiative in the constituency.

It has also regained a significant foothold in the capital, where, before Friday, it had no seats. Sean Haughey's return in Dublin Bay North wasn't the biggest surprise but his comfort in regaining the seat probably wasn't expected. Richard Bruton and Finian McGrath will join Haughey in the Dail. There's a decent chance Sinn Fein will take a seat, leaving the final seat up for grabs. Can Aodhan O Riordain hold on for Labour?

In Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael was looking good to hold two seats. The final two seats are between Sinn Fein's Chris Andrews, the Greens' Eamon Ryan, Jim O'Callaghan of Fianna Fail and Labour's Kevin Humphreys.

Fine Gael also outperformed in Dun Laoghaire. With Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett already returned, Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Maria Bailey seem certain to join him and Richard Boyd Barrett, with Mary Hanafin falling short.

Dublin Rathdown produced a big shock, with the Greens' Catherine Martin taking a seat at the expense of Alan Shatter. Shane Ross, as expected, topped the poll. Josepha Madigan took the Fine Gael seat with Alex White another of the Labour big names to miss out.

Tony Gregory's successor Maureen O'Sullivan looked set to fall short but came back to hold a seat in Dublin Central. It looks like it is between former Lord Mayor Christy Burke and the Social Democrats' Gary Gannon.

In Dublin Fingal, James Reilly's vulnerability says everything about the type of day that Fine Gael was having. There was another strong performance from Fianna Fail through Darragh O'Brien, who will definitely take a seat, as will former minister John Curran in Dublin Mid-West.

The performance of Joanna Tuffy in that constituency vividly demonstrated the extent of the Labour meltdown. The party has gone from two seats to 5pc of the vote in that constituency. Fine Gael also looks set to lose a seat here with Sinn Fein's Eoin O Broin and Gino Kenny of AAA-PBP poised to make gains.

The extent of the FF recovery in Dublin was also obvious in three-seat Dublin North-West. Paul McAuliffe, at the time of writing, appeared to have the edge on Fine Gael's Noel Rock for the last seat, with Roisin Shortall and SF's Dessie Ellis comfortably taking the first two seats.

Even in Dublin South-Central Fianna Fail was in the shake-up for a seat, with Catherine Byrne and Catherine Ardagh battling it out to join Joan Collins, Aengus O Snodaigh and Brid Smith.

In Dublin South West, there was another new FF TD in John Lahart, who topped the poll and will be returned alongside Sean Crowe and Paul Murphy. The final seats are between the two FG candidates and Katherine Zappone.

In Dublin West, it seems that Joan Burton may just hang on at the expense of either Ruth Coppinger or Paul Donnelly of SF - probably the latter. It looks as if Fianna Fail will take a seat with Jack Chambers, only Leo Varadkar is safe at the time of writing.

In Galway East, Fianna Fail's Colm Keaveney was another high-profile casualty, with his colleague Anne Rabbitte set to be elected alongside one Fine Gael TD and Independent Sean Canney.

Galway West looks a complete dog-fight, with only Eamon O Cuiv definitely safe. Sinn Fein's performance was a little disappointing, though Trevor O Clochartaigh may yet take a seat. Fine Gael may hold its two seats here.

In Kerry, the two Healy Raes will make history by becoming the first two brothers to be returned from the same constituency - Michael's vote was the one of the highest ever recorded in electoral history. Fianna Fail should take a seat along with Fine Gael and Martin Ferris.

In Laois the only surprise was that Sean Fleming, until the result from Kerry, had the biggest first-preference vote in the country.

In both Limerick County and Limerick City, Fianna Fail will be kicking themselves that they didn't run two candidates. Fine Gael looks likely to win two seats in Limerick County, and in Limerick City it will be Willie O'Dea, Michael Noonan and Maurice Quinlivan, with Kieran O'Donnell probably holding off the challenge of Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan.

In Longford-Westmeath, it should be one FG, one FF, one Independent with Kevin 'Boxer' Moran. But Labour's long-time stalwart in the constituency, Willie Penrose, is in serious trouble, with Sinn Fein poised to take his seat.

In Louth, Fine Gael may hold two seats, mainly because of the collapse of the vote of Labour's Ged Nash. Sinn Fein will take two there and Fianna Fail's Declan Breathnach will be a first-time TD.

The news is not so good for FG in Mayo, though, with Fianna Fail's Lisa Chambers tipped to edge out Michelle Mulherin and take a second seat for FF.

In Offaly, Fianna Fail is confident it can pull off an extraordinary coup by taking a second seat in a three-seat constituency - though Independent John Foley may ultimately come through.

FF is also neck and neck with FG for the final seat in Roscommon-Galway, with Independents Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice taking the first two seats. FF might just squeeze through here.

In Sligo-Leitrim, it's one FG, one FF and one SF, with the final seat looking too close to call between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

In Tipperary, the odds are against Alan Kelly holding his seat, with Independents Michael Lowry, Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath all likely to take seats alongside one from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

The performance of FF's Mary Butler proved a big surprise in Waterford and she will join Independent John Halligan, Sinn Fein's David Cullinane and one from John Deasy and Paudie Coffey.

It's a better performance though for Fine Gael in Wexford where it should just hold its two seats, with Fianna Fail falling short of winning a second seat here. Next door in Wicklow, the big winners were Social Democrats' leader Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Fein's John Brady. FG star Simon Harris will join them in Leinster House. Fianna Fail should take a seat with Fine Gael possibly edging out Renua's Billy Timmins for the final seat.

It was a day of surprises and no doubt there'll be more to come.

Sunday Independent

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