The constituency redraw removed over 13,000 people from west Cavan and reduced this constituency from five to four seats. This also had the effect of leaving the population evenly divided between Cavan and Monaghan. It is likely that each county will elect two TDs. In Monaghan, Fine Gael Minister Heather Humphries will benefit from her ministerial position and also the defection of her former party colleague Sean Conlon to the independent ranks to hold onto her seat. She will be joined by Sinn Féin’s longest serving TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin who will be elected for his fifth term. Seán Conlan TD who gained some unwanted national attention during his short time in the Dáil is almost certain to lose his seat. Fianna Fáil selected a Monaghan candidate Mike Durkan at the 11th hour but he is unlikely to feature in the final shake-up. In Cavan, Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith will suffer most from the loss of the west Cavan area. There is no love lost between him and his Bailieborough based running mate Cllr. Niamh Smyth. However such is his reputation locally that he will be comfortably elected. There will be a battle for the final seat amongst the three candidates based in east Cavan. Fine Gael’s Joe O’Reilly is the strong favourite to retain his seat, however the youngest member of the current Oireachtas Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly and Fianna Fáil’s Niamh Smyth will offer up a stiff challenge.
Watch out for: Niamh Smyth of Fianna Fáil surprising many by proving she is more than a token gender quota candidate and causing sparks to fly with local kingpin Brendan Smith.
Our prediction: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Sinn Féin), Brendan Smyth (Fianna Fáil), Heather Humphries (Fine Gael), Joe O’Reilly (Fine Gael)
This is another example of the significant changes made by the Constituency Commission. Almost 21,000 people in the north east of Galway including Ballinasloe and Mountbellew have been moved in to the Roscommon constituency. The remaining area has been reduced to a three seater. This will have major repercussions for many of the sitting TDs seeking election. This constituency is traditionally a battleground between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael or more personally between the Kitts and the Connaughtons.
However, on this occasion Cllr Sean Canney of the Independent Alliance looks well set to take the first seat from his Tuam base leaving one seat each for the two larger parties. In Fine Gael, Paul Connaughton Jnr, whose father was first elected in 1981, will take on Ciaran Cannon one time leader of the Progressive Democrats. Tradition would point to Connaughton but Cannon has the benefit of geography and a solid base to the south of the county in Loughrea.
Colm Keaveney is a rare example of a TD defecting to Fianna Fáil from Labour. He has been well received by the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party but his Pauline conversion may not wash in deeply traditional Galway East. His running mate Anne Rabbitte has been well received and looks set to evict the cuckoo in the Fianna Fáil next.
Watch out for: Intense internal battles within Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
Our prediction: Sean Canney (Independent Alliance), Anne Rabbitte (Fianna Fáil), Paul Connaughton Jnr. (Fine Gael)
Galway West – South Mayo
This five seat constituency welcomes 10,000 people from south Mayo and one out-going TD, Fine Gael’s John O’Mahony. O’Mahony will hope the people of Galway remember his achievements as manager of their All Ireland winning football teams of 1998 and 2001. Fianna Fáil’s Eamon Ó Cuiv should top the poll. His running mates Cllr. Mary Hoade and John Connolly do not enjoy high profiles and thus are unlikely to be able to take advantage of upwards trends in Fianna Fáil support to secure a second seat. Fine Gael are assured of at least one seat and sitting deputy Sean Kyne looks the most secure of their three candidates. Noel Grealish has ploughed a successful furrow as an independent since the demise of the PDs. If a government requires independents’ support in the next Dáil then Grealish is a man who can do business. The Labour Party’s Derek Nolan is likely to be one of the victims of the national decline in Labour support. Left wing independent Cllr. Catherine Connolly is likely to take advantage of her city base and her ideology to more than make up the 17 votes she lost out by in 2011.
The final seat will most likely be decided following a momentous battle between Fine Gael’s John O’ Mahoney and Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. As in other counties Sinn Féin have built a solid base over the years and Ó Clochartaigh appears to be fighting a strong ground campaign to secure the seat for his party.
Watch out for: Tallies on count day should reveal whether Mayo’s John O’Mahony has managed to gain traction in Galway.
Our prediction: Eamon Ó Cuiv (Fianna Fáil), Sean Kyne (Fine Gael), Noel Grealish (Independent), Catherine Connolly (Independent) and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin)
Roscommon – Galway
20,000 people from North East Galway have been added to this constituency to maintain its three seats. A promise given during the 2011 election campaign by Enda Kenny, to save emergency services in Roscommon Hospital, resulted in Denis Naughton leaving Fine Gael to become an independent. He is all but assured of being re-elected.
Independent Alliance founding member Michael Fitzmaurice won the bye-election caused by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s election to the European Parliament. On that occasion his east Galway base was excluded as the bye-election was for the old Roscommon – South Leitrim constituency. Reunited with his home base Fitzmaurice will vie with Naughton to top the poll. The third seat will be a battle between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil originally selected Cllr. Eugene Murphy as its sole candidate but fearing him too weak to get into contention, added high profile former Roscommon football goalkeeper Shane “Cake” Curran at the last minute. It’s debatable whether this celebrity candidate will be taken to the hearts of the county and it’s quite likely that splitting the vote will damage the party’s chances. Fine Gael’s Cllr. Maura Hopkins with a base in Boyle and a young energetic persona is well placed to take the third seat.
Watch out for: Disappointed Fianna Fáilers blaming Dublin headquarters interference for the failure to secure a seat.
Our prediction: Michael Fitzmaurice (Independent Alliance), Denis Naughton (Independent) and Maura Hopkins (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.