Monday 19 March 2018

Dublin Bay North

Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fail (1), Sinn Fein (1), Independent (2).

The battle of the transfers will decide the outcome in Dublin Bay North - arguably the most competitive constituency in the country.

Some 20 candidates have declared in this five seat constituency, which has been described by observers as the ‘Group of Death’.

Dublin Bay North encompasses the two former constituencies of Dublin North Central and Dublin North East.

With a population of almost 150,000, it stretches from the suburbs of Fairview and Marino to towns such as Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle.

Six of the candidates are sitting Oireachtas members, while former minister Séan Haughey is vying to make his Dáil.

Haughey was controversially added to the Fianna Fail ticket just days after his surprise defeat to councillor Deirdre Heney at the the party’s selection convention in Clontarf Castle.

The decision to add the son of the late former Taoiseach incensed Heney, who subsequently attacked Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin on Morning Ireland.

This constituency is likely to produce a Fianna Fáil seat - and both Haughey and Heney are essentially jockeying to finish ahead of each other following the first count.

But there is no love lost between the two and if the party does not manage the vote properly, both could lose out.

Much focus will be on the performance of former Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power, who is running as an independent after dramatically quitting the party in protest over its lacklustre role in the Marriage Equality referendum.

Power is spending the vast majority of her time in the constituency but still continues to maintain a high profile at a national level.

She will need to rely heavily on transfers if she is to be elected. However, her prospects should not be discounted.

Fine Gael took the bold decision to run three candidates here after the shock defeat of Jobs Minister Richard Bruton at the party’s selection convention in Clontarf Castle in April.

Bruton was added to the ticket immediately after delegates selected councillor Naoise O'Muirí and party activist Stephanie Regan.

Despite the embarrassing result at the convention, Fine Gael strategists are not contemplating the prospect of a defeat for the Jobs Minister. With O’Muirí likely to benefit from Regan’s transfers, the former Lord Mayor has a fighting chance. But the prospect of securing two seats here is a tall order for Fine Gael

Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s Áodhán Ó Riordáin has seen his profile grow significantly after being appointed as Drugs and Equality Minister and will benefit from the decision by his Dáil colleague Séan Kenny to step down.

One would assume that there is enough Labour support in the constituency to ensure Ó Riordáin goes close, however, there is the real prospect that he could become one of the most significant casualties of the election.

Another TD who is vulnerable here is Terence Flanagan, who has worked hard alongside Lucinda Creighton to build up the newly-formed Renua party.

Flanagan has maintained a low media profile after his car crash interview with Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s ‘Drivetime’ during which he froze - prompting the presenter to intervene and end the interview.

Renua strategists insist, however, that Flanagan maintains a strong level of popularity with voters and should retain his seat.

At least one independent candidate is likely to be elected in Dublin Bay North. Prominent Dáil deputy Finian McGrath has joined forces with the Independent Alliance and should hold onto his seat.

McGrath has mastered the strategy of leaflet drops and is aided by his ‘right hand man’,  Clontarf-based Damian O’Farrell.

But he faces competition from the independent benches by Tommy Broughan, who quit Labour in protest over budget cuts. Broughan has to date resisted the temptation of joining a new party amid speculation that he was approached by the Social Democrats.

Sinn Féin is well-placed to take a seat through either councillor Micheal MacDonncha or Denise Mitchell, neither of whom have high-profiles.

The party will need to ensure it manages the vote effectively given the level of competition coming from all quarters.

Left-wing groups could spring a surprise in the constituency, which also includes Beaumont, Clontarf, Raheny and Donaghmede.

Michael O'Brien is representing the Anti-Austerity Alliance, while John Lyons is the People Before Profit candidate. Lyons courted controversy recently after he was subject to an investigation by Dublin City Council into excessive printing.

Elsewhere, a plethora of independents and other left-wing candidates will cause the vote to be fragmented.

The Social Democrats are fielding former Fingal Mayor Cian O’Callaghan, a highly able councillor who topped the poll in the local elections in his ward of Howth/Malahide.

The Green party is running two candidates with relatively low profiles, Donna Cooney and David Healy. Jimmy Guerin, the brother of murdered Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin, is also in the race. Guerin performed well in the local elections, finishing fourth in the Howth/Malahide ward.

Independent candidate Paul Clarke and Tom D’Arcy of Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) complete the field.

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