#GE16 Guide to Mayo: Enjoying the reflected glory of having a Taoiseach..?


MayoCurrent TDs

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD (Fine Gael), Minister of State Michael Ring TD (Fine Gael), Michelle Mulherin TD (Fine Gael), Dara Calleary TD (Fianna Fáil), John O’Mahoney TD (Fine Gael)*

*Ballinrobe and its surrounding area in South Mayo, with a population of 10,306, is transferring to the Galway West constituency.  Fine Gael’s John O’Mahony has decided to follow these vote into a different constituency.

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 4 (Reduced by one)

Main Towns:

Castlebar – population 12,318

Ballina – population 11,086

Westport – population 6,063

Claremorris – population 3,412

Ballyhaunis – population 2,312

Swinford – population 1,501

Belmullet – population 1,074

Candidates:  As is our way we’ll skip over some of the bit-part players and look at the following candidates of interest.

  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, Fine Gael (Castlebar area)
  • Minister of State Michael Ring TD, Fine Gael (West Mayo area)
  • Michelle Mulherin TD, Fine Gael (Ballina area)
  • Dara Calleary, Fianna Fail (Ballina area)
  • Cllr. Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fail (Castlebar area)
  • Cllr. Rose Conway-Walsh, Sinn Fein (West Mayo area)
  • Mr. George O’Malley, Independent Mayo (West Mayo area)
  • Mr. Peter Jordan, Independent Mayo, (Ballina area)
  • Mr. Michael Farrington, Renua (Claremorris area)

This is a constituency where three out of four seats are locked in. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, his party colleague Michael Ring and Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary appear safe as houses.

Their election also neatly meets the geographic requirement of electing one TD from near each of the main urban areas in the constituency (Castlebar, Westport and Ballina).

Famously Fine Gael, capitalising on a push to crown a Mayo Taoiseach, won 4 out of the 5 seats available in 2011. Following the boundary commission changes taking away much of his strongest support base, John O’Mahony has agreed to run for the party in Galway. 

Fine Gael are now aiming to win three out of four seats. Statistically this feat is little easier than 2011’s herculean effort. 3 quotas is requires over 60% of the vote in a four seat constituency. 

Mayo remains incredibly supportive of its Taoiseach but the novelty of supporting a Mayo man for Taoiseach will have worn off with some. Minister of State Michael Ring is embedded in his West Mayo base and commands a strong personal vote.

The party’s third candidate Michelle Mulherin has experienced an erratic time in Dáil Éireann. At times she seemed to be the self appointed Fine Gael Spokesperson on moral rectitude, notably struggling to support the party’s line on the protection of life during pregnancy and was clearly reticent during the same sex marriage referendum.

While undoubtedly, there is a solid conservative middle class vote in Mayo she lacks the broad appeal necessary to attract transfers from all sides as count day progresses. However being the incumbent counts for a lot and the question is if Mulherin isn’t going to take the 4th seat who will?

Fianna Fáil have a well spread ticket. In Ballina Dara Calleary served as a Minister of State in the last Government and is usually well thought of locally. He will benefit from having the weakest Fine Gael TD in his area and should be well placed to take a seat from his North Mayo base. 

In 2011 an inexperienced and relatively unknown Lisa Chambers stepped up to the plate at the last minute when it appeared that no second candidate could be found to represent Fianna Fáil as “a sweeper” in the south of the constituency.

This was once the fiefdom of the Flynn family, the inimitable P. Flynn and his teak tough daughter Beverly. Chambers answered the call and has used the past five years to eke out a political base of her own in Castlebar, claiming a county council seat in 2014.

Although Chambers is a favourite of the Fianna Fáil HQ, consistent poll figures don’t lie. Despite a good local elections in Mayo Fianna Fáil’s fortunes have not improved sufficiently either locally or nationally to justify the acquisition of a second seat here.

Sinn Féin had a solid local election in 2014. Its Dáil candidate Rose Conway Walsh topped the poll in West Mayo and the party performed solidly in all electoral areas returning 3 seats to the council.  It secured just over 10% of the vote in 2014 and would require a big swing in its favour to grow its vote share to challenge for a seat.

West Mayo is also the least likely area in Mayo to return a second TD. In this area Ms. Conway Walsh is up against a formidable operator in Michael Ring. Sinn Féin has a way to go yet to be seriously considered for a seat here. Finishing 5th would represent good progress in this constituency.

The ideal answer for the fourth seat would be a strong independent candidate. What’s needed is someone from slightly to the left of the political spectrum with a strong community focus based in the middle or possibly the east of the constituency.

Such a man exists in poll topping Castlebar councillor Michael Kilcoyne. Kilcoyne was last man standing in 2011 when he declared late in the day. To date he has not declared for this fight. He has left it late but if he does enter the fray, he would be a force to be reckoned with.

The other independents/small party candidates in the field do not appear to be making much impact, yet with a potential seat there it can’t be ruled out that one of them will gain traction during the election campaign.

A new group called First Independent Mayo formed to pick an independent candidate for the election, with policies and a platform to be agreed by all members of the group.  After holding some town hall meetings, it announced two candidate for the election – George O’Malley and Peter Jordan.

It’s hard to see how an independent group running on a platform of seeking investment for Mayo can compete against the goodies that a Taoiseach and Minister can deliver for the county.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton is a Mayo native and must have harboured some hopes of support from her native soil. Renua have acquired a councillor in Castlebar to bolster the organisation in the county and have chosen a political newcomer, first time candidate Michael Farrington from the east of the county as their flagbearer in this their first election.

He is geographically well placed being the only candidate from this electoral area, but it is questionable whether he has the experience, personality, resources or drive necessary to make an impact in this huge constituency. 

Watch out for: The possible late entry of Cllr Michael Kilcoyne or the emergence of a credible independent/small party candidate during the course of the election campaign.

Our prediction:   Enda Kenny (Fine Gael), Michael Ring (Fine Gael), Dara Calleary (Fianna Fáil) and Michelle Mulherrin (Fine Gael).

Statler and Waldorf are two former political party muppets who have 30 years’ experience in Irish politics.  They now specialise in providing analysis from the sidelines.