The European race for Dublin…

It’s easy to forget that the picture we have for both Euro polls, north and south, are based on a guestimate of how face down ballots are read by party workers. In Northern Ireland, we’re pretty certain who poll topper will be, and who’s likely to slip badly. But judging who actually gets two and three is a little tougher, since besides difficulties of sampling without the proactive help of staff, there’s the selection bias of each party’s estimates. We can only guess which one of three candidates will make it. In Dublin, the first two are certain, with RTE’s exit poll putting Mary Lou McDonald on 15% and Eoin Ryan and Joe Higgins, both on 11.. However its own tally estimates put them on a dead heat: Higgins 13.45, Ryan 13.25, McDonald 13.1 Although celebrations in some quarters may yet prove premature, it must be worrying for Sinn Fein (although big northern win tomorrow would take the public sting out of any defeat), not least since the Ryan vote has proved more resilient than the exit poll suggested. He may also be a great deal less transfer repellent than expected too. Garrett FitzGerald’s advice that Labour and FG voters should decide along Lisbon lines may also help put some cross party wind at his back (to put with transfers from his party colleague Eibhlin Byrne:

“If that means Fine Gael people, and Labour, voting for Eoin Ryan before [Joe] Higgins or [Mary Lou] McDonald, then that’s the way it should be I believe,”

On the other side, Higgins and McDonald can expect to pick up early transfers from the elimination of Patricia McKenna, and then from whichever of the two of them goes out first. Like a pair of speed skaters, one may be able to ‘whip’ the other across the line. For now, it’s impossible to decide, but a loss for either FF or SF, would be a significant set back in their fortunes.

In any case it looks like providing the Republic’s nearest equivalent to tomorrow’s northern nail biter… Although Liam Aylward in East may stop a few loyal FF hearts trying to get home, and Ganley’s better-than-predicted performance (Ahem, EWI… ;-)) in North West should make for interesting ripples down the ballot paper… (Oh, just to add to the original, Fergus notes there could be two Fine Gael seats in South…)

The count starts at 3pm this afternoon in Dublin, and first thing tomorrow at the King’s Hall in Belfast… In the meantime, keep an eye on the live blog for the latest updates

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