Donegal SW: Runners and (expected) riders…

So today the Irish government will move the writ for the Donegal SW. Wikipedia already has a page up and ready to go, with three candidates already named and ready to go: Frank McBrearty for Labour, Pearse Doherty for Sinn Fein and Barry O’Neill for Fine Gael. Its widely expected that the Fianna Fail candidate will be Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, when the party gets around to holding its convention.

In terms of choosing winners, keep your money in your pocket. SF will certainly be competitive in terms of first preferences, but the win line in a by election is much higher than that for taking a third seat in a General Election. The challenge facing them in getting sufficient transfers may prove too tough at this stage.

Despite his party getting hammered in the polls at the moment, Ó Domhnaill is respected by opponents and supporters alike, and is likely to remain competitive and above the current polling rate. Given this is a two seat Fianna Fail constituency (and Donegal is a resolutely FF leaning county), he should stay in the game till the end or near the end. Given the short lead in time, that could be as early as tomorrow.

In McBrearty Labour have a popular local councillor who will be significantly digging into the Finn Valley Fine Gael vote for his first preferences, and acting as a local foil for government discontent. So SF will likely pick up transfers from him when he goes out, but the larger part should return to FG’s man.

Fine Gael’s Barry O’Neill is the most untested choice. He had a very strong showing in the last local elections (about 2,000 votes), and he can probably rely on a strong degree of support from veteran FG TD, Dinny McGinley who had wanted to retire last time out and stayed in to keep a critical, Gaoth Dobhair based, SF challenge out.

On the whole this could be a useful precursor to the south’s pending general election. As noted before here on Slugger Donegal is an atypical testing ground for how that will go. So no extrapolations. But I’d be looking in particular at how reslient the FF machine is in is get out the vote campaign as much for who wins.

They won’t be looking to win the next election, but they will want to fight the rearguard action of their lives. A better than expected result for them will put that extra spring in their activist’s step they need to keep the electoral wolf from the door.

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  • joeCanuck

    Donegal is a resolutely FF leaning county

    Old story if I may be forgiven. Visitor in local bar when Charlie Haughey comes on TV. The visitor says, to no one in particular, “That guy has a face like a sheep’s arse”. Local walks over,a takes a swing at the visitor’s head, knocking him off the bar stool. Visitor picks himself up and says “Sorry, I didn’t know this was FF territory”. The local replies, “It isn’t, it’s sheep country”.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “Cabinet had decided to appeal yesterday’s High Court decision. ”

    This looks like a an excellent way to waste some more public money.

    No odds yet on Patrick Power – I would suspect Pearce will be slight favourite.

  • Jj

    2 other by elections pending too. Dublin South/Waterford. Any word on these? I put some £ on with Paddy P a while back – no sign of any retrun yet! 🙁

  • drumlins rock

    Its still FF to loose, they are coming from a 50% vote in a rural constituency where habits dont change overnight, they would have to drop to third place to be eliminated before SF or FG, and if either of FG or SF go out before them they are more likely to transfer to FF than to each other, but if they were to drop out first would their votes go to FG or SF?

  • the blow – in

    SF have made all the running here so if they don’t get Pearse Doherty over the line this time it will have a negative multiplier effect on them all over the country. The biggest danger is that the anti-govt, pissed off, unchannelled anger that most people now feel has been given vent by Frank McBrearty locally rather than Doherty. Now, everyone locally knows that McBrearty is no more Labour than the man on the moon, so the traditional resistance to anything left of centre in this constituency won’t really apply to Frank who is more an Independent than anything else. Also, given his recent outbursts which were given lots of coverage in the local media, Mr Gilmores advisors might be recommending the Labour big wigs stand well clear and let the man get on with it himself.

  • fin

    Always a bit gobsmacked when I see young O’Neill as a blueshirt, I dunno much about Pearse but I’d say the boy Barry has a better republican background, being a close relation of Joe O’Neill the old school republican from Bundoran

  • Nordie Northsider

    Just heard that independent Councillor Thomas Pringle, formerly of SF, is going forward. Very popular in the South of the county, he could put a dent in the SF vote, although it’s reasonable to assume that SF is the most likely destination of his transfers.

  • Paul

    I wouldn’t want to put money on who will take this seat. Donegal SW is a Fianna Fail stronghold, they had 50% of the vote in 2007 as said above, but, as we all know, an awful lot has changed since then. I think Fianna Fail will lose an awful lot of support here, but they will still have enough to put up a fight.

    In my opinion Pearse will take the seat, he’s the strongest candidate. The only thing that might go against him, is that he’s a Shinner. Senator Brian O Domhnaill will be a close second for Fianna Fail, with Barry O Neill (FG) third and Big Frank a respectable 4th

  • Ash Cloud

    I wonder who new Fianna Failer Gerry Mc Hugh will canvas for. Pringle helped him in his last election, posing in the paper….. but then loyalty isn’t a big Mc Hugh strong point….although FF doesn’t seem to want him either.

  • Nordie Northsider

    There was an hilarious exchange on Raidió na Gaeltachta today in which Pat the Cope was asked again and again to give his opinion on Brian Ó Domhnaill as FF candidate. He gave a master class in avoiding a straight question. I don’t think that Brian can expect much help from Gallagher’s crowd.

  • Questionmark

    Remember that his background does not matter. A very large no. of the current cabinet come from Freestate backgrounds and there are two who had british spies in their blood line. So the idea that FF are politically the same as its founders is really stretching it.q

  • Questionmark

    The only throat that a FF’er will cut faster than that of an honest man is a fellow FF’er.

    Christ ar an Rothair, but ó Domhnaill is the only one of them that actually has a chance.

  • Valenciano

    Paddy Power now has odds

    Sinn Fein 2/5
    Fianna Fail 4/1
    Fine Gael 4/1
    Labour 7/1
    Independent 10/1
    Greens 100/1

    Not that tempting. While the shinners will probably win 2/5 is far from generous as by-elections in the current climate are quite unpredictable.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Val they would be about right if it was a First Past the Post, but on STV (or in reality AV) and only going by what I read online surely the FF vote would have to halve to let either the other 2 in?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Is that on the website – cant see it for some reason.

    Have to say suprised at odds – thought it would be closer.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Blow-In, you got a point. What if, after all this effoect, SF do not win it? They are the smallest single party in Ireland at present, and need all they can get. Before you mentioned it I did’nt consider the possibility that SF’s candidate(s) may not get elected. But what if?

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Really? Which two?

  • fin

    Questionmark, it was just a comment, although I’ll be harsh and say his politics may be more career based than heartfelt. Just been reading about Pearse’s performance on the Browne show, sounds like a good operator

  • Valenciano

    It’s hard to find but it’s there

    if you can’t find it do a search in the top left of the website.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Got it ta.

  • Valenciano

    Though Donegal is strong FF territory, in the current climate it’s more than possible that voters will want to stick it to Fianna Fail. You often get swings in by-elections that you won’t see normally and it’s also probable that FF will get less transfers than usual if there’s an “anyone but FF” mood.

    You’re right though, those odds would be decent if it was FPTP but on AV there’s no guarantee that SF will win. Evens or 4/5 would be about right so I’ll keep my cash in my pocket.