Sinn Féin looks certain to make gains in the next election, particularly in Donegal, and the polls show the party on level support with Fianna Fáil at 14 per cent.
It is a situation that was unthinkable two years ago, but these are extraordinary times, yet Galway West looks set to remain a wasteland for the party.
Galway West Sinn Féin will hold its election selection convention this Sunday at 5pm in the Menlo Park Hotel. A candidate will be selected to run on behalf of the party in the constituency for the General Election which will most likely take place in March. The meeting will be attended by Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre De Brun.
To date, only Trevor Ó Clochartaigh from Connemara has announced his intention to seek the nomination to stand.
Mr Ó Clochartaigh stood for Sinn Féin in the 2009 Local Elections for the Connemara area, polling 893 first preference votes and lasting until the fifth count with a combined total vote of 1,267. Although it was a solid performance, a general election is a completely different matter.
In the 2007 General Election, Sinn Féin received 1,652 votes but that was still a long way off the 8,000+ that is needed to secure a seat. Locall, the party has been in disarray for the last number of years, struggling to field candidates and failing to keep the council seat it won in 2004.
Also, Mr Ó Clochartaigh is based in Connemara and despite the record levels of animosity towards Fianna Fáil at this time, the Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív, will still get the lion’s share of the regions vote. This will help Minister Ó Cuív on his way to winning a seat. Only then can other candidates expect to receive what is left over.
A further challenge Sinn Féin faces is that there is only really one Left seat in Galway West. At the moment this is held by Labour and the party’s new candidate, councillor Derek Nolan, has a good chance of holding on to it.
His main challenger to this goal is Independent councillor Catherine Connolly, who many see as a dark horse, and who cannot be discounted from causing an upset and taking a seat. However this need not be at Labour’s expense.
If the Fine Gael strategy of running four candidates (including two in the city ) backfires, it opens up a ‘free’ seat which could be taken by Fianna Fáil, Noel Grealish, or a strong Left candidate. Should the Left get lucky and take the seat the most likely beneficiary will be the high profile Cllr Connolly, and not Mr Ó Clochartaigh.
Sinn Féin being able to challenge for a Galway West seat is still some time off.