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Gilmore will take seats from FF in 'cockpit of government'

THE late Seamus Brennan frequently used to say that, with 47 Dail seats up for grabs, Dublin was "the cockpit of any Government".

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore is best-positioned to profit from Fianna Fail's predicted demise in the capital.

Bertie Ahern was highly successful in the capital in general elections, with Fianna Fail winning 21 seats in Dublin in 1997, 21 in 2002 and 19 in 2007.

But his party is now in danger of seeing the trend in the local elections repeated in the General Election.

At local level, Fianna Fail's vote share was cut in half between 1999 and 2009 and the number of councillors is now a quarter of what it was back then. Down to just six seats out of 52 in Dublin city, Fianna Fail has only one councillor south of the River Liffey.

After losing its MEP and dropping to such rock-bottom levels, Fianna Fail TDs openly admit a wipeout in Dublin is all too possible. Doomsday reports of polls suggesting just three seats in Dublin still linger.

By contrast, Labour's local election results in the capital would indicate the party is poised to make substantial gains.

Party strategists say it is no accident Labour is the biggest party at a local level in Dublin.

The growth of Sinn Fein gave the party a much-needed jolt and it responded by increasing its organisational efforts.

The abolition of the dual mandate -- which banned TDs from sitting as councillors -- also created space for figures to emerge in constituencies.

Whatever about Labour being a nationwide force, Mr Gilmore needs to take a real shot at doubling his seat numbers in Dublin. It means winning two seats in a large number of constituencies.

The Labour leader won the battle to convince his established TDs they had to have a running mate and make a bid to get them elected.

But there are doubts over the selection of some of the candidates -- with suggestions the incumbents had too strong a say in picking running mates.

Moreover, there is a sense the existing TDs won't be threatened with being taken out by their party colleagues.

"The sitting TDs have decided across the board who their running mate is going to be. The party is allowing TDs elected in 1992 to control their own patches. We have decided to play it safe and not take any risks.

"The new Government is going to take hits and I don't think we're going to have the types of new TDs who can withstand that pressure if they are obsessed with local issues. We'll end up with a load of Mattie McGraths constantly watching their seats," a party councillor said.

Unlike the rent-a-candidate strategy in the west of Ireland, Labour has no shortage of councillors to choose from in Dublin.

The questions about candidate selection will all be dismissed if the results come off -- but there'll be repercussions if it doesn't work.

"There'd be a lot of annoyance about the candidate selection. Things like that could come to the fore after the election," a candidate said.

Eyebrows were raised about Ivana Bacik being run out of Dublin South East, Andrew Montague not even being put forward for selection in Dublin North West and Rebecca Moynihan's defeat at convention in Dublin South Central.

The failure to select Ms Moynihan was the most bizarre decision of all. She was one of the "Gilmore Girls", the new crop of female candidates who won seats in the 2009 local elections.

Instead of running a young, female candidate, the party has got a member of a dynasty and two veterans on its all-male, three-candidate line-up in the constituency.

The Gilmore gale doesn't feel too fresh in the south inner city.

Still the existence of first-time general election candidates like Aodhan O Riordain, Aine Clancy, John Lyons and Patrick Nulty means there is some young blood in the fray for a party badly in need of rejuvenation.

Elsewhere though, the age profile is not showing signs of improvement.

The latest opinion polls showing Fine Gael well ahead of Labour nationally and catching their would-be coalition parties in the capital will lessen the credibility of the calls of 'Gilmore for Taoiseach'.

Mr Gilmore's Dublin base and the strength of the organisation ought to count for something though, meaning the party is optimistic of major gains.

"Certainly there is a small fear we could have peaked. But on the big day, Dublin could be very good," a councillor said.

Irish Independent