CON Houlihan once remarked that ‘blessed is the constituency that has a marginal seat’. In Irish politics, such constituencies appear to benefit far and above those of the settled ones. Thus it has been and is likely to remain so.
The redrawing of the constituency boundaries, which comes into place ahead of the next General Elections, is already sparking a lot of internal debate in political circles. And in the only constituency that probably ever elected four TDs from the same party in a 5-seater, Mayo is at the heart of the fall-out.
Mayo not only loses a TD but a sizeable chunk of South Mayo has been catapulted into West Galway. And since the four outgoing Fine Gael TDs cannot be reelected in the new Mayo constituency next time out, something has to give.
John O’Mahony confirmed in recent days that he has had some approaches to consider standing in Galway West. Such a move, while offering a potentially new avenue, is also fraught with danger, not least from a major backlash from the sitting Galway West FG deputies Brian Walsh and Sean Kyne and Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames.
It goes without saying that John’s main trump card is his strong association with Galway GAA going back to 1998 and 2001 when he managed the senior footballers to two All Ireland wins.
His declaration that he is looking at all options, the chief one which must still be defending his seat in Mayo, has upped the speculation in both Mayo and Galway West.
Robeen based FG councillor Patsy O’Brien has been making the early running in nailing down a place as the Mayo candidate on the Galway-West FG ticket. Patsy was spotted over at a major show in Connemara last week where he was warmly welcomed by some local party supporters. O’Brien has a very strong base in the part of South Mayo that has been transferred to the Galway constituency. And it looks as if he will battle tooth and nail to be on ticket for the next General Election.
Of course, there is no absolute guarantee that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny or Junior Minister, Michael Ring, will be in the field next time out. But the indications, from recent announcements, would certainly hint that Mr Ring is preparing for battle again.
Michelle Mulherin will have to contend with a new strategy whereby places like Balla and parts of central Mayo that were ceded to her by the party last time out will unlikely be on the table again. And with Dara Calleary’s rising profile in a much depleted Fianna Fail, she will face a very stern contest, a challenge this doughty battler will not shirk from in the slightest.
One of the most clear-cut solutions to the Fine Gael dilemma in Mayo probably rests with Ballyhaunis MEP, Jim Higgins. Should Jim indicate that he will not seek re-election in two years time, many believe John O’Mahony is the ready-made candidate to contest the North West Constituency through his strong links with Galway, Leitrim and South Roscommon. It seems a much safer bet than dangling in the unchartered waters of Galway West.