#GE16 Dublin Central: Mary Lou to top the poll (Bertie’s ghost is long departed)

Dublin_Central_Dáil_Éireann_constituencyDublin Central

Current TDs:  Joe Costello (Labour), Paschal Donohue (Fine Gael), Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin), Maureen O’Sullivan (Independent)

 Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3 (Reduced from 4)

  To date more than a dozen candidates have declared in this constituency which suffers more than its fair share of looney left independents. Most of these have little chance of actually taking a seat.  We’ll give a passing glance at a few of the also rans while maintaining focus on candidates more likely to be in the frame.  

  • Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohue TD (Fine Gael)
  • Mr. Joe Costello TD (Labour)
  • Ms. Mary Lou McDonald TD (Sinn Féin)
  • Ms. Maureen O’Sullivan TD (Independent)
  • Cllr. Mary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fáil)
  • Cllr. Gary Gannon (Social Democrats)
  • Cllr. Christy Burke (Independent)
  • Cllr. Cieran Perry (Independent)

The boundary change coming into effect for this election takes a seat from Dublin Central and also strips it of much of its middle class vote. Much of Drumcondra village and the area around the Botanic Gardens moves to Dublin North West and the Navan Road, Ashtown and areas around the Phoenix Park have been recast to Dublin West. 

The queen of the constituency is undoubtedly Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. It will surprise many to learn that she only took the 4th seat in 2011. If the party has real ambition for power, constituencies such as Dublin Central will have to be targeted for two seats in the future.

However on this occasion a single candidate strategy focussed on consolidating the party’s vote and uniting behind a push to ensure Mary Lou tops the poll appears the wise strategy.

Much of the colour has drained from this constituency from the days of Bertie and the Drumcondra Mafia. Bertie ruled his kingdom from 1981 until his retirement in 2011. Tales of the early morning “milk runs”, ward bosses controlling their patch with military precision and of dark deeds hatched in Bertie’s St. Lukes HQ are nostalgically reminisced in the Goose, Fagans, Quinns and other constituency watering holes frequented by old men bereft and bewildered by the change in fortune that leaves Fianna Fáil irrelevant in the constituency’s new political scene.

The old mafioso still hold some influence within dwindling Fianna Fáil circles and it is a reflection of the party’s irrelevance that the selection of the despised Mary Fitzpatrick was met with half-hearted objections by Bertie’s loyal lieutenants. Mary is badly hampered by the redraw depriving her of much of her Navan Road base and Fianna Fáil’s role in this election will be to deliver transfers to ensure the re-election of a Government TD.

Minister Paschal Donoghue of Fine Gael took a seat for the first time in 2011, topping the poll. He won’t get in so comfortably on this occasion, also being hampered by the new constituency boundaries. However despite his watery persona, his profile as the senior Minister in the constituency should stand to him. There is one seat available for the outgoing Government and it will be a fairly tight fight.

In 2011 Labour targeted two seats and in the months leading up to the election.  The ‘Gilmore Gale’ was poised to blow Aine Clancy into the Dáil alongside long serving Joe Costello. But the party ran out of puff on polling day and while Joe was easily elected, Aine’s elimination ensured Mary Lou’s victory. 

They say it’s the old dog for the hard road and Joe now in his 70th year has built up a considerable local operation. With the new boundaries suiting him better than his Government colleague, he can’t be written off just yet. If Labour make any recovery in national polls in coming months then the local battle between Labour and Fine Gael may be worth watching.

 Cllr. Gary Gannon deserves mention purely as a member of the elusive Social Democrats led by no one person but combining the undoubted yet unquantifiable talents of TDs Stephen Donnelly, Roisin Shortall and Catherine Murphy. This campaign is likely to be baptism of fire for this affable young councillor with a somewhat idealistic outlook. 

Independent  councillor Christy Burke enjoyed a relatively high profile year as Dublin’s first citizen however he has never really troubled the tallymen at election time and is likely to fall short once again.  His history as a Sinn Féin representative until 2009 will stand to him but the party discipline will ensure not many votes are lost in his direction. 

Maureen O’Sullivan inherited Tony Gregory’s seat in a 2009 Bye Election and gamely held the seat in 2011. She will be looking nervously over her shoulder at the other left leaning independents in the constituency but should be bolstered by the benefits of incumbency.

This is a polite way of describing the €40,000 per annum “leader’s allowance” paid to independent deputies to help them run their legislative affairs. 40 grand buys a lot of flyers and gives any outgoing independent a significant advantage leading into this election.

Cllr. Cieran Perry has built up a strong following in the constituency in recent years topping the poll in the 2014 Local Elections. Unfortunately for him, most of his electoral base has been moved out of the constituency. 

With his strong track record on anti-austerity issues and in the campaign against water charges, he will pose a challenge for the left wing independent seat that this constituency traditionally provides. If the water tax campaign and mass anti-austerity demonstrations are to result in any direct political impact in election 2016 then this may be the man to benefit.

Watch out for: Sparks flying between Fine Gael and Labour in this constituency. A dark horse at odds of 8/1 or so Cieran Perry may be of interest to political punters looking for a value long odds bet.

Our Prediction:  Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Fein) Minister Paschal Donohue (Fine Gael) and Maureen O’Sullivan (Independent)

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