Two Dail seats for Sinn Fein in Donegal..?

There’s an analysis piece in the Donegal Democrat that backs some of the soundings I’ve been taking in and around Donegal in recent weeks, ie that Sinn Fein could/should take one and possibly two seats in Donegal in the next southern general election. The figures are an extrapolation from the last Red C poll, and based on an ‘independent’ analysis from Aidan Kavanagh at NUI Maynooth (who did a similar exercise in May):

The national figures which were published at the weekend show Fianna Fail at 18% (down 6%), Fine Gael 32% (up 1%), Labour 27% (up 4%), Green Party 4% (up 1%), Sinn Féin 9% (down 1%), Independents/Other small parties 10% (up 2%)

On these figures, an independent analysis estimates the implications for Donegal are as follows:

Donegal North East (FF) 25.1% (FG) 30.5% (LB) 5.6% (GP)1.3% (SF) 26.1% (OTH)11.3%

Donegal South West (FF) 25.3% (FG) 31.1% (LB) 8.6% (GP) 1.5% (SF) 31.8% (OTH)1.7%

Now there should be a major health warning here. These are extrapolations from an opinion poll, not hard figures. But they chime with an actual dynamic that is certainly at play in the NE, ie that SF is successfully positioning itself as the foil for FF voters to register their disgust.

That positioning is probably easier to achieve in Donegal than many other counties. And in NE, where the Blaney machine behind Independent FF was a great deal closer to the SF position and cultural identity than elsewhere in the county.

With Letterkenny GP Jim McDaid showing no signs of weakening his grip on his Letterkenny base – Niall Blaney the latest scion of that famous political family – will be faced with a life and death struggle with Padraig MacLochlainn to keep the party’s second seat. Kavanagh (as he did in May) has an even better showing for SF in the SE constituency.

Add to this that there is no real Labour tradition in the county, and I’d expect to see SF pick up a chunk of the Labour surge and Donegal, which should in turn enable the party to play above its performance in May 2007, even if it comes in around the same national share of the vote.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    I don’t think that’s an unlikely result, but I notice the Shinners themselves are playing it down – they’ve been here before.
    What would it mean for SF if their representation is overwhelmingly in the border counties of Ulster? Curiously, it might not make much of a dent in the perception of them as being a Northern party. They would just have spilled over a little – that’s all.

  • Paul

    Kavanagh?? South-East constituency? Who’s this Kavanagh you speak of?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I was in County Donegal a few weeks ago and certainly two seats was a talking point. I was not inclined to believe it to be very likely.
    The last General Election……SF stalled although in fairness to them they were a bit unlucky.
    Two seats in Donegal takes a near perfect storm. And its a constituency where Belfast accents on the canvass trail are not an instant turn off.

    The bad news for SF is that the polls are predicting them to do well. Opinion polling is money for old rope. Not to be taken seriously.

  • Archie Noble

    Yes I think this is likely. I had some Donegal people to stay last month and they reckoned Sinn Fein would win two seats. While not members they intended to vote SF.

  • SF’s difficulty in the Republic is converting overall first preferences into seats, which comes down to transfers. I’m not sure how optimistic they would really be over either Donegal constituency, but with a heavily localised support base it is possible. The current inability of FG to present a coherent face at the moment means that there is effectively a three horse race – how that would play in terms of transfers is unclear (although, on those scores, SF would have a quota in both Donegal constituencies if only one candidate goes up). It will be interesting to see how far Labour push their energies in the likes of Donegal – or will they adopt a passive policy of hoping SF do some damage for them.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Something else to ponder: while Mick is correct in saying that there isn’t much of a Labour tradition to speak of in the North-West, Frank McBrearty will get a substantial personal vote. It would be a surprise if the Labour surge throughout the state didn’t make itself felt in Donegal, if only weakly.

  • pippakin

    Donegal is SF territory arguably if they are to take anything in the south it would be there.

    I’m a bit disappointed that Labour don’t appear to be improving there, especially so since no way would I describe SF as socialist.

    I can think of a number of caps that fit SF heads socialist is not amongst them.

  • bob wilson

    I predict the A5 road scheme will be pushed ahead asap and the contract given to a consortia with strong Donegal (FF?) credentials
    Despite this SF to gain a seat in N Donegal but not south

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Odds with Paddy Power shows they are expected to get 6 or 7 seats. At least as important, to small parties like SF, as the number of seats – is the possible mathematical configurations which would allow them a place in government.

    Even with FG still struggling a bit (and how Enda has survived is something of miracle) FG/Lab are 1/5 to form the next governemnt.

    Realistically SFs best bet is the election after next to capitalise on Labour taking a beating akin to Libdems in Britian.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    As mentioned on the A5 thread – SF will be trumpetting the project as a peace-process-road with each stage delivered with Conor to the fore.

  • Alan Maskey

    PSF making a breakthrough in Donegal would be a tragedy for Donegal, comparable in scale to the worst afflictions she suffered in the nineteenth century.
    One can go as far back as Seamas Rogers who the Sticks hoped would make the break through for them in the 1970s. Fortunately, Donegal had Neil Blaney’s steady hand then and for many years afterwards.
    Donegal has suffered hard at ther hands of PIRA: Galetacht residents mutilated for informing gardai of armed robbers etc. Though Donegal has also a sizeable Protestant community, a PSF breakthrough in any part of the South would signal that Ireland, the Provo riviera in particular, was fast approaching the status of a criminal state. (Inward investment would stall for years – though the Colombian narco terrorists and bird watchers might be interested.

  • propaganda

    His analysis also shows there is a fair sized demograph following the party for example in parts of Dublin looking for gains in the NE&NW and in SC&SW where they look to defend and regain seats. Then there too is Kerry NW Limerick.
    I also interprete chance gains in Cork as well depending on transfers. There isn’t just support around the border area.

    Is it me or does anyone else think that FF haven’t drifted down to their core support yet? Be funny if FF drop in the polls below SF.

  • Greenflag

    Even with 6 or 7 seats I somehow can’t see FG /Labour inviting SF into a coalition .

    ROI is not NI even if Donegal /Cavan/Monaghan are next door .

    It will always be an uphill struggle for SF in ROI . To break the 10 seat barrier would be a huge achievement . Could it be possible ? My view would be that if the FG/Lab combo don’t get their act together soon -SF mind find themselves getting votes from disgruntled FF voters who while not wanting to see SF in government would rather not see any FG/Labour coalition with too big a majority .

  • cork bill

    im from cork city and sinn fein made big gains in local elections from 2 seats to 5 seats just one less than fianna fail! so party has suport in ROI not just border area, just look at north kerry and dublin, party could take seat in cork north central!

  • SF may gain a seat in Donegal – the empty vessels they have there certainly do make noise – but their chances of doing well further south are gone as they become an ever more marginal party at a time a party of the left should be reaping electoral reward. That Red C poll had them at 8 or 9 per cent – how that translates into 26-31 per cent in Donegal is a mystery to me.

  • wee buns

    There has been a rash of canvassing, certainly in my housing estate in S. Donegal. The area would be an important foot-in-the -door to the republic, definately a strategic target…..
    Leaflets plastered with Pierce’s fine dentistry.
    I can’t see it happening.
    Too many already burned?/disillusioned Shinners/plain conservative here.

  • Mick Fealty

    Haven’t you seen the poster? It’s different up there…

    None of the Labour councillors are hard core party men, and there is no machine as such. Over that, most of those going against FF (normally the default choice) will peel off to the locally established parties, that is FG and SF.

    The game is such that it does not require a major restructuring in the underlying game to bring SF those seats. I would agree generally on the game further south. NI matters to Donegal people of all stripes in a way it simply doesn’t down south.

    Even the Arms Trial affair was a left over from an earlier phase of FF. A senior pol like Blaney could not have come from a constituency much below NI’s southern border. Dublin politics almost completely absorbs them in ways it never quite has in Donegal.

  • Questionmark

    For the love of Jeebus, you surely aren’t trying to tell us that Labour are Socialists.

  • Questionmark


    You surely could have fitted in another bit of bile there. Blaney jnr isn’t half the cut of a man as old Neil and would infact be the opposite politically.

  • Questionmark

    If you think that FF are detested and my God they really are hated. The next Govt. will be equally hated after a few years. SF can win by being the last man standing. They will never be the biggest party in the26 but given the hatred of FF and the upcoming hatred of Lab. Not pretty but if they get up to 20 seats on the back of it, they might not mind too much

  • mediilen

    This one reason why Sinn Fein will win a seat in Donegal South West and also in other areas.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Agreed. It really must astonish members of the party and leadership that over twenty years after deciding to participate in Irish democratic politics, they have yet to break the hold of the big three (Labour, Fine Gael, Finna Fail). What gives?

  • Cormac Mac Art

    True, and all the media speculation that they could get one or both seats is a case of riding for a fall, should they fail.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    In Ireland, they still have only four TD’s. That’s a terrible return for all those years of electoral effort.

  • pippakin


    Rather more so than any other party in Ireland.

    In fact I’m not convinced that being part of the next government will be good for them, they will be taking on the appalling disaster left by FF and after a couple of years taking the blame for it!

  • Cormac Mac Art

    But Mick, none of that changes the fact that SF are still unlikely to break the 10-T.D. line in Ireland anytime soon. Gaining one seat (a possibility; two is optimistic) might be no more than a flash-in-the-pan protest vote over the way FF have screwed up.

    I wonder does this demonstrate something about the importance of participating fully in a state’s political life, rather than coming into the game sixty-four years late? Because I still cannot quite fathom how SF have not gained more seats in ireland in the past twenty-four years. I guess the next election, held as it will be in the middle of a recession, will tell.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Do you think that’s why they have failed to grasp all but the most marginal voters in Ireland? That voters are already set in their ways?

  • Cormac Mac Art

    This coming from a member of a party that created some two thousand ghosts during The Troubles ….

  • grimreaper22

    42 yrs since MLK was murdered in Memphis, and there’s a Black man in the WH. That’s a blink of an eye, do the Irish have to stare, are we incapable of blinking,? I’m far from being a Shinner but ” Mac Art’s” opinions just prolong the bigotry,on BOTH sides. I hope SF landslide in, in SW, not for them particularly, just as a mini referendum to show FF how unpopular they really are, they just don’t seem to “get it” any other way.