Revolving Taoiseach Not To Be Sniffed At
Well who’d have thought it? The one horse race is no more. Fine Gael have been brought back into the field.
Fine Gael Under Pressure
The two most recent polls in the Sunday Independent and the Irish Times are hugely significant. Both show Fianna Fáil closing in on Fine Gael. Micheál Martin and FF have the momentum and FG has stalled badly.
It’s worth bearing in mind, the Irish Times poll at this stage five years ago was pretty much spot on.
The concern for Fine Gael is that these findings – and the rise of Fianna Fáil – will set the narrative for the final days of the campaign. That has the potential to give further momentum to FF – unless FG can change that narrative.
At 27%-28%, many Fine Gael TDs will be nervously looking over their shoulders. That exact level of support got the party 51 seats in 2007. But it was a bigger Dáil and FG were far more transfer friendly then.
In contrast, Fianna Fáil is heading towards the mid 20s, and it’s now eyeing up second seats in the likes of Offaly, Kildare South, Wexford, Donegal and, at a push, Mayo to add to Cork South-Central and Carlow-Kilkenny.
Although the party is still lagging behind in Dublin, it will also quietly fancy its chances of winning seats across the capital – including Dublin West, Mid West, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay North, Fingal and South West. It’s now in with a shout in places such as Dublin South-Central where no-one was giving them a chance.
Meanwhile, a whole raft of Fine Gael seats are now hugely vulnerable. The likes of Cavan-Monaghan, Clare, Kerry, Cork East, Cork North-West were all places where most pundits had inked the party in for two TDs – but now they’re far from certain. The same goes for Cork South West, where the split could now be one FG, one FF and one Independent. Ditto for Limerick County.
If FF comes in at 23 to 25%, it will surely take Paudie Coffey of FG’s seat in Waterford – one few had tipped the party to take.
In Connaught-Ulster, FG is now under pressure to hold its second seats in both Galway East and West. And it’s in a dog fight to win a second seat in Sligo-Leitrim with Sinn Féin, FF and an Independent.
Roscommon-Galway was a banker for Fine Gael a couple of weeks back, but Shane Curran’s entry into the field for FF and the party’s strong national showing means it’s no longer a dead cert.
According to the Irish Times poll, FG is doing ok in Dublin, but Independents and others are doing better. That means FG is far from guaranteed to hold its second seats in the likes of Dublin Fingal, Mid-West and Rathdown. In Dublin North-West, it looked like Noel Rock would take FG’s first seat in the constituency since 1992. Now it’s anybody’s guess.
In Leinster, on these figures, Fine Gael can forget two seats in Louth. Even in Meath East, where it has a really strong ticket, it’s no longer certain of two. Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke is a real threat here although it would still be a major surprise if Helen McEntee and Regina Doherty don’t hold on.
In Kildare South, with the Labour seat looking vulnerable, Fine Gael had been tipped to make a gain. But Fianna Fáil will now fancy its chances of taking a second seat in what will be a battle for Newbridge.
Just to stress, FG won’t lose out in all these seats. They might not even lose out in most of them. But at 27-28% they’ll lose a good few of them.
In summary, at 27-28% Fine Gael will be doing very well to get to 50/51 seats. A return of 23% would leave Fianna Fáil close to the 40 mark. If they can pick up another couple of points to 25%, it gets them well into the forties.
Suddenly the gap between the two parties doesn’t look so wide. In the latest poll numbers, Labour won’t make double figures. Sinn Féin is drifting back a little and might fall just short of making it to the mid 20s. Independents and small parties would get 35 seats plus seats.
One To Watch
With Fianna Fáil closing in on Fine Gael, the option of a ‘revolving Taoiseach’ does come into play. BoyleSports are now pricing this option at 8/1. You can get 5/1 on Fianna Fáil winning the most seats in the election. It almost certainly won’t happen but….