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Thursday 23 November 2017

50 coalition TDs could fall as FF popularity soars

Many of the new FG and Labour faces in Dail and Seanad in danger of becoming one-term wonders

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

THE new generation of TDs elected in the 2011 Fine Gael/Labour landslide are in danger of becoming single-term deputies if the consistent unpopularity of the Government revealed in a series of Sunday Independent/Millward Brown polls is carried through to an election.

With a fifth of the electorate deserting the Coalition, up to 50 TDs could become victims of a Fianna Fail-led counter-revolution.

The spectacular fall in support for Fine Gael and Labour means the seats of senior ministers Phil Hogan, Frances Fitzgerald and James Reilly and those of a host of junior ministers, including John Perry, Sean Sherlock, Jan O'Sullivan, Lucinda Creighton and Joe Costello, are in real danger.

The most chilling feature of the polls is the danger that putative future leaders and ministers such as Sean Sherlock, Alex White and first-time TD and minister Alan Kelly are in.

However, the heaviest casualties are likely to be suffered by a wave of new and idealistic first- or second-term politicians. Labour's new intake such as Arthur Spring, Michael McNamara, Derek Nolan and Aodhan O Riordain are also clearly in serious political trouble.

With the party facing a wipeout of all TDs beyond greater Dublin, others earmarked for the future such as Ged Nash (Louth); Dominic Hannigan, ironically, the current TD for Meath East; Ann Phelan in Carlow-Kilkenny; Ciara Conway, Anne Ferris, Michael McCarthy and possibly even established deputies such as Ciaran Lynch face the political abyss.

The recovery of Fianna Fail, the rise of Sinn Fein and the escalating decline of Labour within the electoral cockpit of the capital means the Coalition is poised to sustain particularly heavy losses in Dublin.

In particular, the junior coalition partner will lose TDs in those constituencies where it secured two seats in the 2011 General Election.

Those under pressure include Robert Dowds, the talented Joanna Tuffy, John Lyons, Sean Kenny, Eamonn Maloney, Kevin Humphreys and Michael Conaghan, all of whom will provide FF and SF with plenty of low-hanging political fruit.

In Galway, despite his loss of the whip, Labour chairman Colm Keaveney faces an uncertain future, while such is the decline in Labour support that even well established ministers such as Kathleen Lynch will have concerns over their future.

The escalating chill over Labour's role in government means that ambitious senators such as John Gilroy, James Heffernan (who has also lost the party whip), Lorraine Higgins, John Whelan and Seanad leader Ivana Bacik will find it almost impossible to make the transition from the Seanad to the Dail. One source noted: "If Labour is not very careful, it could face a reprise of the 1980s when the party consisted of a dozen mostly elderly men."

When it comes to the sad anthem of the politically doomed coalition youth, the losses will not be confined to Labour.

For Fine Gael, those first-time ideological "Gang of 10" TDs who will not be sleeping easily include Eoghan Murphy, Tony Lawlor, Paul Connaughton, Brendan Griffin, Sean Kyne and Sean Conlon, while other relatively new TDs who face a serious battle to retain their seats include the highly regarded Paschal Donohoe and Regina Doherty.

A number of female first-term Fine Gael TDs who face serious difficulties in retaining their seats include deputies such as Aine Collins and Michelle Mulherin.

Others who are in trouble include Simon Harris, Tom Barry, Peter Fitzpatrick and Terence Flanagan, while the political future of an increasingly troubled Peter Mathews is in no way assured.

Commenting on the figures, one senior political source warned that "such an unpromising landscape is likely to enhance tensions within and between the coalition partners as the penny finally drops among the new fellows that a seat here isn't actually for life".

Irish Independent

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