FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL Dara Calleary still has to be favoured to take a seat for Fianna Fáil in Mayo as he will pick up votes from the party faithful in every box in the county. He is pictured with Fianna Fail Party leader Michéal Martin during his campaign visit to Ballina.
Calleary and Kilcoyne may spoil Fine Gael party
Commins calls it
THANKS be to God we are in the final days of the General Election campaign. I don’t think the public or the candidates could stand much more of this long drawn-out battle. Far from gaining momentum, interest has been sliding over the past few days and many can hardly wait for Friday to see it all through. Make no mistake about, the one day that does grab the attention of the nation is COUNT DAY. Saturday is the culmination of all the build-up and radio comes into its own on this special day in the affairs of the nation.
Mayo will be very much at the centre of the national coverage on Saturday. It is now virtually certain that Islandeady’s Enda Kenny will be the new incoming Taoiseach and Castlebar and the TF will be very much in the glare of the national limelight this weekend.
It will all be in such contrast to the 2002 election when Enda arrived in to the TF late on Count night with his concession speech in his jacket pocket. But a dramatic twist of fate where he picked up more transfers than he expected from the elimination of Frank Chambers (FF) saw him edge ahead of party colleague Jim Higgins in a dramatic night in Castlebar. With a hint of mischief, I could suggest that Frank Chambers saved the day for Kenny and look where the Islandeady man is today!
So what about the Mayo Constituency this time around? This is truly the ‘Big One’ for Fine Gael and the push to land four seats is huge. No matter how the party does countrywide, there will be a sense of disappointment on home turf if they do not deliver four. But it is a huge “ask” and one that has never been achieved by any party in a 5-seater constituency in the history of this State.
First things first. Enda Kenny will head the poll and have a sizeable surplus. Limiting the size of that surplus will be a major problem for Fine Gael …and one which may ultimately hold the key to whether they can win the fourth seat or not. If the surplus is huge, there will be a considerable ‘slippage’ of votes in the distribution, apart altogether from the fact that the other three would be “down” on their first preference votes.
Michael Ring, despite the fact that he is in an area where there are plenty of candidates at the same “trough”, will be heading back to Dail Eireann and fairly comfortably too. (Could we be looking at the new Ceann Comhairle here?!!!!).
There will be a huge focus on where John O’Mahony and Michelle Mulherin stand at the end of the first count. Whoever is ahead is in poll position to take the third Fine Gael seat. On the balance of probabilities and the fact that O’Mahony has a huge swathe of countryside in East and parts of South Mayo with not a single candidate against him, one would have to think that he will be ahead of Michelle. However, it has to be said that she is putting in one hell of a gutsy campaign and there appears to be an amount of goodwill towards her in the party network.
Fianna Fáil, at the end of the day, added a second candidate, Lisa Chambers from Ballyheane. The young debutante has fought the good fight but knows she will be doing very well to hit 3,000 votes on the day. The main focus here is Dara Calleary, junior minister in the outgoing Government. The family have been involved in politics in the North Mayo region for decades with three generations serving in Dáil Éireann. This is the toughest election ever in the history of Fianna Fail and Dara is also facing a major challenge from a resurgent Michelle Mulherin. He will also be impacted on the first count by dropping votes to Ballina town candidates Loretta Clarke and Martin Daly. Still, he has to be favourite to take a seat for Fianna Fáil in Mayo as he will pick up votes from the party faithful in every box in the county.
Will a challenge emerge to Fine Gael’s pursuit of four and Fianna Fail of one from the chasing pack? Of course there will. Where is the threat most likely to materialise from? Ten days ago, I thought it may have been from Dr Jerry Cowley of Labour. There appeared to be some momentum coming into his campaign. Now I’m not so sure. There is increasing talk that Michael Kilcoyne, the Castlebar based Independent councillor, is getting wind in his sails. If this is the case, he is perfectly positioned at the centre of the county to attract major transfers. In my opinion, he is the dark horse coming with a gallop down the finishing straight.
Sinn Féin will increase their percentage of the vote on this occasion. They are fielding two strong and very able candidates in Rose Conway-Walsh and Therese Ruane. However, I feel the party slipped up big time by not running Gerry Murray from Charlestown. Murray is regarded as one of the top councillors in Mayo and, not alone that, he can attract first preference personal votes from traditional Fianna Fail and Fine Gael people. I still believe that if Sinn Fein had used the famous PD strategy from the Galway West election some years ago when they ran three candidates and, sensationally, held on to Bobby Molloy’s seat (won by Noel Grealish) that they would be on course to take a famous seat in Mayo this time.
Martin Daly, standing as an Independent and supported by the Mayo Reform Group, is part of the New Vision team. He has run a good and principled campaign and may well surprise many by the vote he will achieve on the day. He also has the full backing of Declan Ganley of Libertas who describes Martin as a man of great ‘backbone’ who was willing to stand up and challenge the bigger parties. Ganley was in the Welcome Inn last week to show support to Martin Daly and around 100 people attended the event. Also backing Martin is Mayo Independent councillor, Michael Holmes.
Loretta Clarke (75) has been putting in a great campaign in Ballina. She may surprise many in the Ballina area by securing more votes than predicted by many. Folks, they talk about the five party leaders debate and all that … I can assure you that Loretta Clarke would knock ‘em all flat if she was on the same stage. She is like a ‘ticking time bomb’ and if social unrest manifests itself down the line, guess who will be first on the barricades!
The others runners in Mayo are John Carey (Green) and Dermot McDonnell and Sean Forkin who are standing as Independents.
Verdict: Even the great and wonderful Kilkenny hurling team failed last September in their bid to become the first senior team ever in hurling or football to win five All Irelands in a row. At the end of the day, and despite a huge effort, they fell just short of making history. The same fate could befall Fine Gael this weekend in Mayo. No party has ever won four seats in any constituency south of the Border in the history of this State. Everything has to fall into place for Fine Gael to take four. If they do, Dara Calleary could find himself in a very tight corner. That would leave it four Fine Gael and one other. However, I am going to call it thus: Fine Gael (3): Kenny, Ring, O’Mahony; FF (1) - Dara Calleary; Michael Kilcoyne (Ind).