After Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow-Kilkenny, the last ‘south-east’ constituency that I’m going to preview is Waterford. Unlike the others it is a mere four-seater, although it has been an effective three seater since Martin Cullen’s resignation last year. Fifteen candidates are standing in the election in Waterford this time out.
Since the quota in a four seater is just over 20% making two seats a difficult ask. In 2007 FF took two seats from three candidates getting 46%, FG took one with three candidates getting 27%, while Labour took the last with 11.3%. The Labour TD, Brian O’Shea is not standing this time although Brendan Keneally (FF) and John Deasy (FG) are seeking a further term. Mostly Waterford is being called as a done deal, with the sole FF candidate (Keneally), both FG candidates and one of the two Labour candidates considered as home and dry.
Three of those standing as independent are sitting councillors, whilst the Workers Party and a new grouping Fis Nua (New Vision) have candidates. Jody Power is the Green party candidate, although the Greens have not had much of an impact in Waterford. SF have David Cullinane standing and will hope that he improves significantly on his 2007 performance of 6.7%, again, with an eye on a dramatic reduction in the FF first preference vote (although he is not expected to feature at the business end of the counts).
Overall, the four south-east constituencies will act as a rough metric for the overall performance of the parties in the 2011 election. Since FF failed to reach a majority with 10 from 19 seats in 2007, FG must hope that their vote management strategies are considerably improved on the last general election and that they can bring through three candidates in more than one of the four constituencies to get to at least 10 out of 19 as well. FF may have to content themselves with one seat in each, although, if they can hold to that they may still return with 30 TDs or more to the 31st Dáil. Two seats in any one of the constituencies might indicate that FF are returning with as many as 40 TDs. If Labour can pass out FF in the south-east it may be more confident of returning a greater number of TDs overall than FF. A real measure of Labour progress would be to achieve a second seat in either Wicklow or Wexford. SF would probably consider taking a seat of any of the four constituencies as a good result and while individually it is hard to sustain a case, collectively SF would be hoping to get a toehold in the south-east with someone like Brady or Cassin sneaking in on the last count, which may just about happen. The Greens must be fearful of attracting a derisory first preference vote after such exposure as a governing partner.