What to watch out for at the count…

Politics.ie managed to get a hold of Newstalk‘s top tips for today’s winners, constituency by constituency. Their prediction of Tom Parlon as the only PD to be left inside the Dail could spell the end of the party, if it turns out that way. You can cross reference their predictions against Chris’s Sinn Fein’s ones to watch, they make Sean MacManus the only victor out his second group. Noel Whelan in yesterday’s Irish Times spotlighted 15 constituencies that might prove vital battlegrounds:Dublin Central : “The Taoiseach’s constituency colleague, Dermot Fitzpatrick, has retired and this time out Ahern, unwisely, has two running mates. If Fianna Fáil manages to pull off two seats here, it will be good indicator of Ahern’s prospects for holding on to the Taoiseach’s job. There is an outside prospect of a Fine Gael gain and, if it does happen, it is likely be at Labour’s expense”. Newstalk predicts: 1 FF, 1 SF, 1 LAB, 1 IND.

Dublin South West: “Fine Gael could win here and still be far from government”. Newstalk predicts: 1 LAB, 1 SF, 1 FG, 1 FF.

Dublin South East: “Fine Gael’s candidate, Lucinda Creighton, now looks likely to win a seat and the Green Party’s John Gormley is probably safe. The crucial battle is between Ruairí Quinn, Michael McDowell and the stronger of the two Fianna Fáil candidates.” Newstalk predicts: 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 LAB, 1 GREEN.

Louth: “The decision of Máiréad McGuinness to contest here has opened, for a while at least, the real possibility of a Fine Gael gain from Fianna Fáil. Now that the Fine Gael surge has been contained, party strategists have downgraded her prospects. If she wins a seat alongside Fine Gael’s sitting deputy Fergus O’Dowd then there is a real chance of a rainbow cabinet”. Newstalk predicts: 2 FG, 1 FF, 1 SF.

Dublin North: “…the constituency of the Green Party leader Trevor Sargent, is one of the demographically transformed four-seaters which could very well determine this election. Both of Fianna Fáil’s outgoing TDs and the outgoing Labour TD are not recontesting. Sargent himself is safe. There is also at least one Fianna Fáil seat guaranteed. The Socialist Party, Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will fight for the other two seats. If Fianna Fáil wins two here, Bertie is home and dry.” Newstalk predicts: 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 SOCIALIST, 1 GREEN.

Mayo: “…very high up the list of Fine Gael’s targeted gains. The party has a candidate too many here. It could struggle to manage its vote, not only because Enda Kenny may get a leader’s bounce on his home turf but also because Michael Ring’s electoral appeal will be hard to restrain. A gain for Fine Gael here is a prerequisite for a Mayo taoiseach.” Newstalk predicts: 2 FG, 2 IND, 1 FF.

Dún Laoghaire: “…with Fine Gael’s vote increasing, it will win back at least one seat and the Progressive Democrats are liable to lose out. The Green Party is likely to hold its seat. There could be a second Labour seat or even a second Fine Gael seat. …unlikely now but if Barry Andrews loses his seat you will know it is going to be a very bad weekend for Fianna Fáil”. Newstalk predicts: 2 FF, 1 LAB, 1 GREEN, 1 FG.

Whelan argues he key to the rest lies in Fine Gael picking up second seats in other five seat constitutencies:

…among them Laois Offaly [Newstalk: 2 FF, 2 FG, 1 PD*] and Cork South Central [Newstalk: 2 FF, 2FG, 1 GREEN], which it could do relatively easily. If it wins a second seat in Carlow Kilkenny [2 FF, 2FG, 1 GREEN], then Fine Gael will be doing very well.

There are two three-seaters in Dublin where Fianna Fáil will battle intensely with Sinn Féin for the last seat [Dublin North East, whicn Newstalk predicts: 1 FF, 1 LAB, 1 SF Lab, FF, SF/FG (panel didn’t agree)*, and Dublin North West, which Newstalk predicts: 1 LAB, 1 SF, 1 FG, 1 FF FF, SF, FF*. However, outside of the capital, there are a number of more crucial three-seaters which are perched floating across the Kenny-Ahern divide and where the destination of the third seat will be indicative of the trend.

Getting two seats out of three in Cork South West [Newstalk: 2 FG, 1 FF] would be relatively easy for Fine Gael, but getting a second seat in Cork North West [Newstalk: 2 FG, 1 FF] would be a significant boost. Winning a seat in Tipperary North [Newstalk: 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 IND] should also come easily for it, but winning a second one in Limerick West [2 FG, 1 FF] will be much harder. In Sligo Leitrim [Newtalk: 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 SF] both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have two outgoing Sligo town-based deputies. Both will be comfortably re-elected. The third seat can be viewed as a fulcrum for the national result. In order to build a majority for Kenny, Fine Gael needs it to come down on their side.

All of this comes with a health warning. PR makes predicting the last seats extremely difficult. As the PDs evidently understand (very little evidence of a national campaign, with all senior figures spent much of their time fighting for their political lives in their own constituencies), there are no safe seats under STV!

* corrections to an earlier cut and paste error…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty