Fionnán Sheahan: 'Green machine: other parties are in denial if they don't see big seat gains for Ryan'
A dozen Green Party TDs after the next general election isn't far fetched.
It was a little bit of history for the Greens at the weekend. The election of Joe O'Brien in Dublin Fingal was their first ever by-election win.
O'Brien became only the 10th Green TD ever elected after Roger Garland, Trevor Sargent, John Gormley, Eamon Ryan, Ciarán Cuffe, Dan Boyle, Paul Gogarty, Mary White and Catherine Martin.
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Garland, Ryan and Martin have all represented Dublin South, now Dublin Rathdown.
Gormley and Ryan were elected in Dublin South-East, now Dublin Bay South.
O'Brien now covers the same Dublin North patch where Sargent was a TD, although it's now known as Dublin Fingal.
The pattern of Green heartlands electing councillors and TDs has emerged again.
O'Brien's election shouldn't have come as that much of a surprise. Sargent, now the Reverend Trevor Sargent, was the Greens' longest-serving TD, serving from 1992 to 2011.
North Dublin is fertile ground for the Greens with councillors elected all along the coastline.
The constituency was in the top three potential gains for the Greens in the next general election. The win has merely come six months early.
Given the surge in interest in climate change and environmental issues, the Green brand is at its highest.
The local and European elections showed the party can convert sentiment into seats.
The by-election victory continues the upward trend.
The party is turning sentiments into support at the ballot box. After the by-election count, party leader Eamon Ryan reiterated his view his party can win six seats at the next general election.
Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe was more excited and doubled that figure to 12.
It's ambitious but feasible.
The climate change agenda isn't going away. Much and all as the other parties try to adjust their agendas, they can't match the Greens on track record or policies.
In the local elections, the Greens got 49 seats from 5.6pc of the vote. The Greens have been polling above that point since then.
Last month, a strategist with one of the main parties predicted to the Irish Independent that the number of Green TDs after the general election could even be in the mid-teens if their current growth trajectory continues.
The advantage they have over their competitors is their support isn't spread too thin.
The concentration of their vote in key constituencies and transfer friendliness means a vote surge would deliver a disproportionate seat gain.
Where are the dozen seats going to be won?
Well, it obviously depends on the level of support the party gets on the day.
Start by chalking down Ryan in Dublin Bay South, Martin in Dublin Rathdown and O'Brien in Dublin Fingal. Each is in an eminently holdable seat, despite heavy competition.
Even on local election levels of support, you'd see three more falling in Greater Dublin. Ossian Smyth in Dún Laoghaire is as near to a shoo-in that you can get.
Neasa Hourigan in Dublin Central is another seat the party is sensibly targeting.
Roderic O'Gorman in Dublin West is also poised for a breakthrough, along with David Healy in Dublin Bay-North. Steven Matthews in Wicklow will also challenge strongly.
From those five, three seats is genuinely doable.
Outside of the capital, a slight rise above their present level of support puts Lorna Bogue in Cork South-Central, Pauline O'Reilly in Galway West and Malcolm Noonan in Carlow-Kilkenny all in play too.
A surge would put Francis Noel-Duffy in Dublin South-West and Patrick Costello in Dublin South-Central in contention.
And if the Greens start hitting 10pc nationally, suddenly Vincent P Martin in Kildare North and Pippa Hackett in Laois-Offaly are in play.
It's not quite as certain as the melting of the polar icecaps but Cuffe's dozen seats is certainly a possibility.
The by-election win was a warning shot.