Sinn Fein emerge as likely kingmakers in next Dail
SINN Fein's success in the North has helped them emerge as potential kingmakers in the next Dail.
Support for Gerry Adams' party has risen from 7pc to 10pc since the start of the year. Possibly riding a wave of goodwill from recent events in the North, Sinn Fein is in position to win more seats in this general election. The party is focusing its resources behind a small number of contenders. Their potential seat gains can be isolated to Donegal, Dublin and the south-east.
Here are the candidates Sinn Fein reckons will become TDs if the swing goes the party's way:
Padraig MacLochlainn, Donegal North-East:
Sinn Fein insiders regard him as the party's best all-round candidate in the whole country. He has a strong personality and is carving out a voter base for himself with his workrate.
After Niall Blaney came back in from the cold after 30 years, Fianna Fail holds all three seats in this constituency so it will be nigh impossible to hold all three.
MacLochlainn, along with FG's Joe McHugh, is snapping at the heels of FF's Cecilia Keaveney, Jim McDaid and Blaney.
The Statesman-like young man made his mark on national politics in the European elections when he set down a marker. FG paid the ultimate tribute to him by recalling Dinny McGinley from retirement to try to fend off his challenge. FF Ministers Mary Coughlan and Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher are looking over their shoulders.
Sinn Fein's steady rise on the northside of Dublin is best illustrated in this general area where the party picked up around 6,000 votes in the local elections.
O'Toole, a party veteran, topped the poll in his ward of Dublin City Council on that occasion with nearly two quotas. FF's two seats in this constituency, held by Michael Woods and Martin Brady, look shaky. If the tide goes out for FF, O'Toole will replace one of this pair.
Sinn Fein is throwing its organisational weight behind the Dublin MEP in Bertie Ahern's backyard. The common misconception is that it's only the Fianna Fail second seat, being sought by the Taoiseach's running mate that is in the firing line, but tell that to Independent Tony Gregory and Labour's Joe Costello. She poses a considerable threat to Fianna Fail.
Just like O'Toole, Ellis is in a prime position to win this time but also knows the party hierarchy will drop him if he fails.
The former IRA member served prison sentences for possession of explosives and was also at the centre of a celebrated extradition case.
If he builds on Sinn Fein's vote in the local elections he will pose a genuine threat to FF's Pat Carey. Minister Noel Ahern and Labour's Roisin Shortall will be watching nervously.
Running in her first general election, she is in with a shout as there is an extra seat up for grabs here. The party leadership has also been upping her profile recently.
None of the parties can really gauge how the seats will fall in this area as the constituency is only in existence for the past five years.
David Cullinane, Waterford:
A good showing in the European elections also pitched his profile forward, but the party doesn't seem from local polling to have made the requisite advances since then. He is well versed in extolling the party line.
FF's Ollie Wilkinson and Labour's Brian O'Shea are perceived as weaker but have enough to hang on.
John Dwyer, Wexford:
Not as polished as some of his colleagues, Dwyer will still be in the shake-up for seats in the county. From his New Ross base, Dwyer would have to get ahead of FF's Sean Connick to be in with a chance of winning.