The best bet of this campaign is in the market of the highest vote-getter in the country. This is a two-horse race between Michael Lowry and Michael Healy-Rae in their respective five-seaters of Tipperary and Kerry. Other party leaders such as Gerry Adams and Enda Kenny will split their votes to get others in.
In my opinion, Lowry is a five-star nap for the most first preferences, driven by a huge GAA base of support across the county and those who couldn’t vote for him previously when he was in North Tipperary.
The vote for independent candidates has increased, if anything, since the election was called. There are three things in particular driving this…
- In the context of people being apathetic about politics, voting for your local TD, in someone you can trust, has a certain resonance.
- Many people, particularly in rural Ireland, have been voting in, year after year, backbench government TDs with no ministerial prospects and who don’t deliver Cabinet representation. They’re just lobby-fodder for the party whip system. Therefore, this drives people to vote for politicians whose loyalty isn’t to the country – it’s a case of ‘constituency first’.
- The third thing driving the Independent vote is the prospect of a hung parliament. Independents could hold the balance of power and negotiate with any grouping for a ‘come and get me’ and thus deliver that national representation for their area.
I’m betting on around 30 non-party TDs or independents being elected – essentially those not in the four main parties.
Existing TDs and bankers…
In Tipperary both Michael Lowry (1/50) and Seamus Healy (8/15), the most left-of-centre deputy for people to vote for, are certain to get elected. It’s difficult to elect three Independents in this constituency so Mattie McGrath (evens) may lose out due to the renewal of Fianna Fail.
Other bankers, of course, include Healy Rae in Kerry (1/40), Finian McGrath in Dublin Bay North (1/25) and Shane Ross (1/50) in Dublin Rathdown. They’re all very strong. But I think Dublin Bay North will have two Independents with Tommy Broughan (8/11) also getting in. Averil Power (10/3) won’t make it.
In Dublin Fingal, Clare Daly (1/40) will top the poll for the United Left. Dublin South Central also throws up the prospect of two left seats – Joan Collins (1/5) could be joined by Brid Smith (4/7) as they feed off the carcass of Labour.
In the three-seater of Dun Laoghaire, Richard Boyd Barrett (1/7) will top the poll, I expect, while in one of the strongest Independent constituencies, Roscommon-Galway both Michael Fitzmaurice (1/33) and Denis Naughten (1/20) will be vying for first place – both comfortably being elected. This is a sign of the times of the potency of the Independent vote in rural Ireland with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael scrapping for the other seat.
In Wicklow, Stephen Donnelly (1/7) of the Social Democrats will be elected but I fear for Renua’s Billy Timmins (8/15) – I’m marginally against him getting in as he doesn’t have Fine Gael support.
Meanwhile in Wexford, he won’t top the poll as he did previously but Mick Wallace (1/18) will be elected – the only Independent from this constituency, despite talk of Ger Carthy (5/1).
Moving across the south-east, in Waterford City, John Halligan (1/40) will be comfortably re-elected, while Sean Canney (1/5), a Tuam candidate, will dislodge Fianna Fail’s Colm Keaveney (1/2) in Galway East to be a new name in the next Dail.
In Donegal, based on recent TG4 polls, I’m moving away from Thomas Pringle (5/4) holding a seat in favour of two Sinn Fein seats and two Fianna Fail, along with one Fine Gael. Pringle has been hurt by the redraw of this constituency with some of his support moving to Leitrim.
One confident prediction comes from Cork North Central. There, the new name of Mick Barry (5/4), the AAA candidate should dislodge Labour’s Kathleen Lynch in this four-seater.
In Dublin Central, some pundits have suggested Maureen O’Sullivan (8/15) will come under pressure as this goes from four seats to three. Despite a lack of traditional Tony Gregory support for her, I believe other Independents there such as Christy Burke (11/8) and Gary Gannon (11/2) have too many votes to make up on her, so expect her to hold on.
There will be a surprise packet in Clare in the shape of Ann Norton (3/1) or Dr Michael Harty (9/4), the rural village GP candidate. Between them, they’ll take the last seat from Labour.
In Cork East, keep an eye on the Independent candidate from Cobh, Kieran McCarthy (9/2) – he can pip Sinn Fein’s Pat Buckley (6/4).
Despite Paddy Power pricing Renua’s John Leahy as 5/4 favourite to get the third seat in Offaly, I’m not having that. Portarlington’s Eddie Fitzpatrick (9/4) is likely to get in, with the votes for a nearby candidate, Edenderry-based John Foley (9/2), being a key factor.
Good Independent shouts…
In Cork North West, watch out for John Paul O’Shea (evens) who’s the housewives’ favourite and the Daniel O’Donnell of Irish politics. He’s the new mayor of Cork and women are drooling over him. Despite being on the edge of the constituency, he’s my tip to pull off a surprise here at the expense of Fine Gael’s Aine Collins.
Meanwhile in Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael’s Gabrille McFadden (4/6) will lose out to the former Fianna Fail man but now established Independent Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran (evens) – the timing of the election suits him after he featured on our TV screens during the River Shannon flooding in Athlone.
Independents springing a surprise…
In Limerick County, there is a former barrister, Emmett O’Brien (8/13) who is a reasonable bet to get elected. He’s a voracious and vigorous campaigner who can pip Fine Gael’s Tom Neville (2/5) for the last seat, with both coming from the same Adare/Rathkeale area.
In Dublin West, based on the latest Irish Independent poll, I see the AAA’s Ruth Coppinger (1/5) scrapping for the last of four seats but just holding on.
In Dublin South West, Paul Murphy (1/40) should top the poll easily for the AAA but I don’t see Katherine Zappone (10/3) or Deirdre O’Donovan (9/4) claiming a second independent seat.
One banker is Noel Grealish (1/5) in Galway West, who could still top the poll and I quite fancy Catherine Connolly (8/11) to get the last of five seats here, denying some of the more established battalions. Her time has come.
In Dublin Mid West, a name to watch out for who’s perhaps not well known is Gino Kenny, a left wing independent who at 4/6 strikes me as very likely to dislodge Labour’s Joanna Tuffy (5/4) while ex-Green Paul Gogarty is also in the running and it’s not impossible for both to get elected (although my preference is for Fianna Fail’s John Curran (8/13) to get that last seat.
There are a couple of Independents being talked up who I don’t fancy.
In Cork South-West, Michael Collins (11/8) from Schull got 4,000 votes in the local elections and Bandon’s Alan Coleman (11/10) are in the hunt but I can’t see either beating Fianna Fail here, failing to get sufficient support outside their own areas.
In Kildare North, Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats (1/25) is another poll-topper and Lucinda Creighton (pictured above, 1/6) in Dublin Bay South holds on for Renua’s only seat – a huge disappointment to her.
Renua are going to have a bad day. Leahy and Timmins won’t make it. Terance Flanagan (8/1) has no chance in Dublin Bay North.
For the Social Democrats, they have chances of not only holding their three seats – Murphy, Stephen Donnelly and Roisin Shortall (1/18) in Dublin North West – but could grab one more TD.
The Greens will have a good day, with Eamon Ryan (1/3) not only certain to get elected in Dublin Bay South, I’d also watch for Catherine Martin (10/3) in Dublin Rathdown, who could pull off a big surprise. I don’t think Fine Gael will get two seats here where Shane Ross tops the poll. Martin is a magnet for transfers across the board.
The hard-left Independents will have a relatively good Irish General election on February 26. Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger, Brid Smith, Joan Collins, Mick Barry, Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett – that’s seven TDs with a foothold in the 32nd Dail.
However, as I said, my best bet of this election is for Michael Lowry to get more than 16,000 votes and subsequently the most first preferences of any candidate running @ (8/13).
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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