Wednesday 23 October 2019

Predictions of an early general election are out as FG and FF both flop at the polls

Polling: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar casts his vote at Scoil Thomáis, Laurel Lodge, Castleknock, Dublin. PHOTO: MARK condren
Polling: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar casts his vote at Scoil Thomáis, Laurel Lodge, Castleknock, Dublin. PHOTO: MARK condren

Philip Ryan

Political anoraks should make the most of the coming days' election counts because there is not going to be another one for some time.

Predictions of a snap general election in the aftermath of the European and local votes were well and truly put to bed last night with the publication of the RTÉ/Red C exit poll.

In recent weeks, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs have been salivating over the thought of a summer or early autumn general election, should their respective parties get a bounce this weekend.

But there has been no bounce. In fact, as predicted, the elections have been a flop.

However, the public's sudden fascination with environmental causes will dissipate very quickly once they realise how much it will hit their pockets. But let's not take from their success today.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will not be celebrating the results of the local elections if, as the exit poll predicts, Fine Gael only holds 23pc of the seats on local authorities. This would represent a small drop in seats on the party's disastrous 2014 local elections. The opinion poll has a margin of error of 4pc, which means Fine Gael could potentially see its seat count jump to 27pc or drop to 19pc.

The latter would see serious questions asked of the Taoiseach. There could already be some awkward conversations to be had about the party's strategy for the Dublin constituency for the European Parliament elections. Former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald (14pc) should take a seat but, after being an early frontrunner, she will now have to rely on her running-mate, one-time SDLP leader Mark Durkan, to get her over the line. Meanwhile, Derry resident Mr Durkan (5pc) looks to have bombed in Dublin.

Micheál Martin will not be popping Champagne bottles either, with Fianna Fáil also on just 23pc - which is a 2.5pc fall on the party's 2014 local election result.

The Fianna Fáil leader has the added headache of a potentially disastrous showing in the European Parliament election. Billy Kelleher (12pc) in Ireland South looks to be the only Fianna Fáil candidate sure of a seat and he will need transfers from his running mate Malcolm Byrne (9pc).

In Dublin, former junior minister Barry Andrews (12pc) will be in a scrap for a seat. But the real catastrophe looks to be in Midlands North West where Brendan Smith (6pc) and Anne Rabbitte (3pc) haven't managed to salvage a quota between them.

The low voter turnout in certain areas of the capital did not signal a good day for Mary Lou McDonald and the opinion poll shows Sinn Féin could be down more than three points to 12pc since the last local election. Sinn Féin looks like it will retain its seat in Midlands-Northwest with Matt Carthy on 15pc, but it is less certain of a seat in Ireland South with Liadh Ní Riada on 13pc. Similarly, Lynn Boylan (10pc) cannot be sure of returning to Brussels.

Irish Independent

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