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Ivan Yates: Here’s how Labour could lose 25 seats in the Irish General Election

The former minister and TD for Wexford gets stuck into Labour and estimates a loss of 25 seats for Joan Burton's party

by Ivan Yates | January 13, 2016

First of all, voters in General Elections sometimes don’t go to vote for people. They go to vote out people. In 2002 the public turned against Fine Gael, under Michael Noonan. In 2007 they voted out the PDs. In 2011 they voted out, with affirmation, the Green Party and Fianna Fail.

It’s Labour’s turn now – they are going to be decimated in the upcoming Irish General Election (odds-on to be called for February 26).

Joan Burton (pictured below with Enda Kenny) should scrape through on Leo Varadkar’s transfers in Dublin West but for others, like Alex White in Dublin South, I’m afraid it’s curtains.

If we look at the baseline position in 2011, Labour got 37 seats, or 19 per cent of the vote to form a government with Fine Gael.

But now the brains of the Labour operation are disappearing. You have five big retirees, which, in these circumstances, will lead to five immediate seat losses. It’s farewell to Pat Rabbitte (Dublin South-West), Ruairi Quinn (Dublin Bay South), Robert Dowds (Dublin Mid West), Michael Conaghan (Dublin South Central) and Eamon Gilmore (Dun Laoghaire).

So Labour are down to 32 seats before the ball’s thrown in. On top of this, four people are resigning from the party and have opted to run under a different banner: Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, now standing as an independent), Roisin Shortall (Dublin North West, co-leader of Social Democrats), Eamonn Maloney (Dublin South West, Independent), Colm Keaveney (Galway East, Fianna Fail).

We’re NINE down before the election kicks off, so let’s look at vulnerabilities in those remaining 28 seats.

Joan Burton

The likes of John Whelan (Laois-Offaly) and Lorraine Higgins (Galway) went close last time for Labour, but I’m predicting that Labour will win NO new seats this time. Sorry, guys.

The most optimistic scenario is that Labour gets eight per cent of the vote this time – using the local and European elections as a benchmark, when they got seven per cent of the vote. I’m giving Labour eight per cent on this occasion. This could be generous, but that’s for others to decide. On the basis of eight per cent Labour have very few certainties for bums in seats.

Willie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath), however, will repel all boarders. He’ll get one out of four votes in his constituency. I don’t think Fianna Fail can get a second seat here. Mullingar is his base and I’d mark him as certain to be elected.

Brendan Ryan’s constituency (Dublin-Fingal) has gone from four to five seats which provides a bit of a safety net for Labour. Alongside James Reilly (FG) Ryan will hold his seat.

It is almost certain that Brendan Howlin (Wexford) will get elected for Labour because Fine Gael have made a complete mess of the succession planning there, with the withdrawal of Liam Twomey late last year. They’re running a no-hope woman, Julie Hogan, who has no track record and is a gender quota requirement. FG should get one seat, Paul Keogh, but Senator Michael D’Arcy won’t get in.

Ivan Yates, avatar Irish General Election quote

So that’s Penrose, Howlin and Ryan in. Labour leader Joan Burton will get elected on Leo’s transfers in Dublin West, I’m predicting. It’s a four-seater instead of three. Even giving Paul Donnelly a seat for Sinn Fein, who’s been knocking on the door for some time, and even giving Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) a straight-forward run through for Joe Higgins’ seat, that leaves a vacant seat. In other words, Sinn Fein are not going to get two. It’s a straight fight, in my opinion, between Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers and Burton for Labour. I’m giving Joan that seat, on the strength of Leo’s transfers.

After that, even though Emmet Stagg (Kildare North) is past sell-by date for Labour – I think he’ll hold on. If a FG newcomer comes in, it’ll be at Bernard Durkan’s expense, but I don’t think there’s a threat there. Catherine Murphy (Social Democrats) will top the poll in Kildare North. FF will get a seat but I don’t see who’s going to dislodge Stagg for Labour.

Likely but not guaranteed is Mark Wall (Kildare South, in place of his father). I predict he will get elected, and Sean Sherlock (Cork East), even though for him to hold on FG will not be able to hold the two seats. It’s more likely he’ll get that seat. FF are in line for a seat gain in Cork East. Sinn Fein are in disarray but will hold their seat (they’ve no chance of a second seat).

That gives a total for Labour of seven. I’m giving them one more between Alan Kelly (Tipperary North) and Jan O’Sullivan (Limerick City), at the expense of FG not getting two. If FG get two, she can’t get elected, in my opinion, as Willie O’Dea and Maurice Quinlivan (Sinn Fein) will get a seat.

Either O’Sullivan or Kelly gives me my total. One winner, one loser. Really, I’m forecasting 8-10 seats. So who else is in the frame to hold on?

John Lyons (Dublin North West) should hold on in this three-seater. Anne Ferris (Wicklow) has a (one in five) chance too but I’m predicting she’ll lose her seat. After that we’re into peril. I’ve seen Labour polls which put Joe Costello ahead of Paschal Donohoe (FG, Dublin Central) who was devastated by the carving up and redrawing of this constituency. It takes his middle-class base away. It’s Costello or Donohoe. People tend to vote for the younger guy, the up and coming guy, and FG will throw the kitchen sink to get him home. IF Paschal doesn’t get elected Costello will.

However, the carnage for Labour is as follows: Arthur Spring in Kerry, Kevin Humphreys (Dublin Bay South), Michael McNamara (Clare), Ann Phelan (Carlow Kilkenny), Gerald Nash (Louth), Kathleen Lynch (Cork North Central), Aodhan O’Riordan (Dublin Bay North), Eric Byrne (Dublin South Central), Derek Nolan (Galway), Dominic Hannigan (Meath), Ciaran Lynch (Cork South Central), Michael McCarthy (Cork South-West), Joanna Tuffy (Dublin MidWest), Ciara Conway (Waterford), Alex White (Dublin South) – between the redraw, the fact he’s always been a poor vote-getter and the swing to Fine Gael imperils his seat.  If you add it up, going from the most certain to the most uncertain, I’m coming in with 8-10 seats for Labour. The margin for error from 9-11 is quite tight so I reserve my position on some of those until the eve of polling.

I’ve got one general bit of advice to punters and layers for the election. Bets struck in the last few days tend to be based on absolute minds-made-up opinion and, as a bookie in 2007, all the bets I laid early in the election the bookie won, all the bets later in the election the punter won – therefore some of these are hard to predict in terms of the floating votes. It’s going to be a tight call.

But all things considered from 37 seats we’re talking a loss of at least 25 between retirees, resignations and defeats.

Ivan Yates is a broadcaster for Newstalk and former TD for Wexford who served as Minister for Agriculture. He was also chairman and managing director of Celtic Bookmakers.

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