TG4’s #GE16 Donegal poll strikes a sour note for Sinn Fein’s primed public expectations…

Not quite sure what Sinn Fein’s thoughts were on how it pitched their third candidate as a realistic contender for a seat. But a poll released this evening (with +/- 5% error margin) by TG4 suggests what our constituency profilers spotted: ie, that it was never a realistic bid in this election.

Donegal Constituency Individual Candidate Support   (Number 1 Preference Vote)

Pearse Doherty  (SF) 19%
Charlie McConalogue  (FF) 17%
Joe McHugh  (FG) 13%
Pat the Cope Gallagher  (FF) 13%
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn  (SF) 9%
Thomas Pringle  (Ind) 7%
Dessie Shiels  (Ind) 7%
Paddy Harte  (FG) 4%
Frank McBrearty Jnr  (Ind) 4%
Tim Jackson  (Ind) 3%
Gary Doherty  (SF) 2%
Ian McGarvey  (Ind 2%
Niamh Kennedy  (Ind) 2%

Here’s the commentary from the presser…

With over two weeks left to polling day, it is too early to make definitive pronouncements but FF  is  performing well ahead of its national vote and, based on these figures,  may well take two seats. With FF polling this well,  it is by no means certain that SF will take a second seat, which some commentators have been confidently predicting in view of that party’s loyal following in the county and SF’s progress in national polls during the lifetime of the last Dáil.

SF looks set to take a seat on the first count with Pearse Doherty on 19%.   This is two points over quota and subsequent transfers could make all the difference to Pádraig Mac Lochlainn’s chances of getting  a second seat  for that party at a later stage of the count.

Charlie McConalogue, on 17%, looks set to take the second seat and the first seat for FF. The third and fourth seats look like going to Pat The Cope Gallagher (FF) and Joe McHugh, (FG), both with 13% of the vote, although neither candidate reaches the quota and will have to rely on transfers.

Pat The Cope Gallagher, a former Minister of State and MEP and long-standing politician in Donegal,  should have the profile to attract sufficient transfers, while Joe McHugh looks set to benefit from transfers from FG running mate, Paddy Harte, who on 4% first preference votes looks certain to be  eliminated.

Calling the fifth seat is nigh on impossible. A number of candidates are clustered together – Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, (SF,  9%), Thomas Pringle  (Ind, 7%) and Dessie Shiels   (Ind,  7%). If Pearse Doherty can poll comfortably above the quota, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn may build up enough of a lead to be uncatchable, with the additional help of transfers from SF’s  third candidate, Gary Doherty, on just 2%. However, if it goes down to the wire, Thomas Pringle and Dessie Shiels, both Independents, will be relatively transfer-friendly and could be there to the bitter end.

The error margin surely gives hope that MacLochlainn can nudge himself up and out of danger. But it also suggests that the FF vote is rock steady (as it has been in the national polls), and that discipline seems to holding in how their two candidates are working the county.

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The really concerning thing for SF comes when you look at the distribution of 1st preference intentions. The Fianna Fail total has not changed an inch since the 2014 local elections, suggesting that SF has already shaken all the available low hanging fruit from that particular tree. The 10% bonus SF are getting appears to be coming from Dinny McGinley’s FG vote and Independents but they’re going disproportionately to Pearse Doherty.

The party’s talking up of the three seat scenario worked on most of the Dublin press. So much so that Paddy Power was offering 1/100 on Pearse, 1/50 on Padraig, and even 6/4 on their third candidate. I’m still (just) with our ‘oul lads’ view that MacLochlainn will make it.

But exaggerating their actual strength in Donegal to a Dublin media ever hungry for clear and dramatic storylines in this murkiest of general elections, could yet prove to be a very expensive mistake.


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