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FF won't keep both its seats in battleground where Ahern was king

IT was already almost a mission impossible for Fianna Fail to cling on to two seats in the Dublin Central constituency.

The departure of Bertie Ahern means it is now a certainty the party won't.

It took the Ahern machine two weeks to get out its Christmas leaflets in Dublin Central during this festive season -- something it was once able to accomplish in two days.

But Fianna Fail TD Cyprian Brady said this was more to do with the atrocious weather than any drop in volunteer numbers.

"You couldn't ask people to go out in those conditions," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Brady only got 939 first-preference votes in the last general election -- a national record low of first-preference votes for a candidate who was subsequently elected. Mr Brady only got elected based on multiple transfers from Mr Ahern's 12,734 first-preference votes. That won't happen this time.

Local Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick missed out at the last general election after Mr Ahern requested his supporters give their second preferences to Mr Brady instead of her.

She said she had put what happened at that election behind her and wished Mr Ahern well in his retirement. She is now hopeful of securing a nomination from the party at the selection convention.

"I've been working on the ground in the constituency full time, day in and day out, for the last seven years. I have to do it with my own team and my own supporters," she said.

But this four-seater constituency will be about more than Fianna Fail. Fine Gael is seeking to regain the seat once held by the late Jim Mitchell. Its candidate is Senator Paschal Donohoe who has been as active on the ground as he has been on his Twitter account.

He performed strongly in the 2007 General Election and is tipped to take a seat this time.

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan succeeded impressively in last year's by-election in the constituency when she ran to replace the late and much-respected Tony Gregory. She is expected to run again.

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Labour stalwart Joe Costello, who has been mounting a weekly protest outside the Mater Hospital, is seeking to bring in a young running mate, councillor Aine Clancy.

Former Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald is seeking to make the breakthrough at the second attempt.

She will be hoping to get a boost from Sinn Fein's improved standings in the national opinion polls.

But there will be fierce competition for the left-wing and working-class votes between herself, Ms O'Sullivan and the two Labour candidates.

At this early stage, Labour's Joe Costello is favourite to top the poll following the departure of Mr Ahern.

And it looks like Fine Gael gaining one seat at the expense of Fianna Fail. But the remaining two seats are up for grabs between Labour, Sinn Fein and Ms O'Sullivan.

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