Sunday 21 January 2018

Fine Gael in battle to cling to their two seats amid strong left-wing challenge

Clare Daly
Clare Daly
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

One of the few certainties surrounding Friday's poll is the election of Independent TD Clare Daly. The controversial politician, who spent 90 minutes in prison in December over her refusal to pay a fine, is expected to deliver a sizeable surplus.

This will significantly enhance the chances of Councillor Barry Martin - the anti-austerity candidate who has entered a vote pact with Daly.

The entire area of Daly's base of Swords, which represents over 17,000 voters, has been moved into this new five-seat constituency as a result of the boundary changes.

The Labour Party knows it is facing into a very difficult election, one which will see it haemorrhage seats across the country. However, the trend is likely to be bucked in this constituency through sitting TD Brendan Ryan.

The same can be said for Fianna Fáil senator Darragh O'Brien, who lost his seat in 2011 as part of the party's electoral meltdown.

With Fianna Fáil desperate to make gains in the capital, expectations are high for O'Brien.

Therefore, he is unlikely to have been best pleased with the decision by the party's National Constituencies Committee (NCC) to add Lorraine Clifford-Lee to the ticket.

Clifford-Lee is part of the slowly emerging liberal wing of the party and has called for a repeal of Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn.

But her prospects have been hampered by Fianna Fáil's failure to adopt a well-managed vote strategy in relation to its two candidates here.

Sinn Féin has a strong chance of landing one of the five seats on offer.

Candidate Louise O'Reilly, a trade union organiser, is often trotted out on radio to bat for the party.

Dublin Fingal presents an intriguing electoral test for Fine Gael and its two sitting TDs James Reilly and Alan Farrell. Both deputies have run completely separate campaigns and do not share a particularly close bond.

Reilly, the Children's Minister and Fine Gael's deputy leader, has endured a turbulent time in Leinster House.

He caused upheaval in Fine Gael before Christmas after calling for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment before the party had formulated its approach on the issue.

Many Fine Gael figures believe he could be dropped from Cabinet after the election and that his position as deputy leader is also at risk. But others within the party admire his courage and conviction.

Whether Fine Gael can hold on to two seats, however, is far from clear. Reilly's running mate Alan Farrell has struggled to build up his profile and is likely to be in a dogfight for one of the final seats.

But this is one of those constituencies where Fine Gael could produce seats once again if picking up momentum in the final stages of the campaign.

A strong swing to the left and independent candidates will benefit Terry Kelleher, who is standing for the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit (AAA/PBP).

But with stronger left-wing voices in Clare Daly and Louise O'Reilly, Kelleher is likely to be squeezed.

Prediction: Ind, FF, FG, LAB, SF.

Dublin Fingal

Candidates: 5 seats FG Alan Farrell TD, FG James Reilly TD, LAB Brendan Ryan TD, FF Darragh O'Brien, FF Lorraine Clifford-Lee, SF Louise O'Reilly, AAA Terry Kelleher, PBPA Barry Martin, R Gerry Molloy, GP Joe O'Brien, IA Tony Murphy, IND Clare Daly TD, IND Roslyn Fuller, IND Marcus de Brun, IND Fergal O'Connell

Irish Independent

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