Friday 20 September 2019

John Drennan: Martin on brink as FF faces Munster wipeout

Private constituency polls will send shockwaves through party as support evaporates in key Munster voting areas

JOHN DRENNAN

Two new constituency polls seen by the Sunday Independent reveal that Fianna Fail is facing into a political abyss in Munster and leadership contender Micheal Martin could be one of the casualties.

A private constituency poll from a reputable polling company, reveals that Fianna Fail is struggling to win a single seat in the three-seat constituency of Cork North West.

More astonishingly still, in Foreign Minister Micheal Martin's bailiwick of Cork South Central, support for a party that won three seats in 2002 has deteriorated to such an extent FF might not retain a single TD there.

The secret polls are sure to send a shudder of fear through FF HQ.

In the three-seat Cork North West constituency, were an election called tomorrow, with just over a quarter of the votes going to Fianna Fail either Michael Moynihan or Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe would take the only FF seat.

Figures indicate support for FF has halved from a high of 53 per cent in 2007. While Batt O'Keeffe is the marginal favourite to retain the seat on current figures, the quadrupling of support for Labour from a low of 5 per cent in 2007, means he faces a serious threat. With just under 50 per cent of the vote, the FG team of Michael Creed and Aine Collins are sure of two seats.

The smallest slippage in the Fianna Fail vote means that the party would not win a seat in the constituency.

Meanwhile, in Cork South Central the implosion in the FF vote means the political career of Micheal Martin, who sees himself as a putative future leader of FF, is in real jeopardy. With just over 20 per cent of the vote, Fianna Fail has enough votes for a single seat.

However, the halving of the Fianna Fail vote from 44 per cent in 2007 means the seat of either Mr Martin or the young FF TD Michael McGrath is on the line.

Though it is believed Mr Martin is slightly ahead of Mr McGrath, the transfers of the second Labour candidate Paula Desmond -- who is geographically close to McGrath -- means Mr Martin could fall behind his colleague.

However, the virtual trebling of the Labour vote, from 9 per cent in 2007, means it can harbour genuine aspirations to win a second seat.

Should there be any further slippage in the FF vote, there is a real possibility that Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer could seize the final seat from Micheal Martin.

This would mean that, as with Cork North West, the seats in Cork South Central would be shared out between Fine Gael and Labour.

The figures, which show that the FG core vote remains solid, suggest that FF risks being wiped out in Munster.

FF might also end up without a single seat in the Tipperary North and South constituencies.

In Tipperary South, should Mattie McGrath run as an independent such a result is almost sure whilst in Tipperary North the strength of Michael Lowry (independent) and the Labour surge makes it likely Noel Coonan of FG and either Maire Hoctor or Michael Smith Jnr (both FF) will contest the last seat.

In their former Kerry South stronghold, it is believed there will be a tense struggle between John O'Donoghue and either Jackie or Michael Healy Rae (independent) for the final seat -- if Labour can find a suitable candidate.

This scenario would also be repeated in Kerry North where Fianna Fail's McEllistrim dynasty -- represented by TD Tom and sister Anne, a county councillor -- is likely to face a fraught battle for a seat with Martin Ferris (SF).

If the figures were replicated in Cork South West, which has one FF seat, and Cork East, represented by the feuding FF duo of Ned O'Keeffe and Michael Ahern, the party would struggle to retain a seat.

This could result in the extraordinary scenario where FF would have Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central) as its sole TD from Cork.

Sunday Independent

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