Galway City East - odds are good for a first SF seat since 2004

John Mulholland and Keith Finnegan recently discussed the bookmaker’s odds for all the local election candidates across the city on Galway Bay FM.

Both are shrewd operators in their respective fields and would be keenly aware these odds will be widely discussed across Galway in the weeks ahead.

For each of the local election candidates, they would be playing down the relevance of these odds but deep down will be worried one way or another by their implications. All politicians going into the final weeks of the campaign want the word to go out they are “fighting for their seat” but again, wish to be assured they can win their seat.

Some of those who have been termed “safe” by Mr Mulholland would be anxious of the impact this will have on their vote but also, be comforted that the former Fine Gael councillor and mayor, who has been on the political scene of Galway for a long time, felt they would make it on polling day.

Similarly, those the bookmaker termed to be fighting for their seat by his odds would use this sound byte to rally their troops and their voter base, but would be concerned that their campaign was not where it needed to be with eight weeks to go.

This week, we will consider the former Fine Gael councillor’s view of Galway City East. It is known that all the major parties have been extensively polling and Mr Mulholland may have got sight of this information in forming his recent view.

Independents/small parties

Mulholland has given odds of 1/50 and 1/33 on councillors Terry O’Flaherty and Declan McDonnell respectively to get re-elected and Insider would not disagree with this assessment. Punters would need to put €50 and €33 on either of the candidates to win €1 - not exactly value for money in betting terms, but will assure the supporters of these candidates that all will be OK on polling day. It is known that neither candidate is engaging in major canvassing activity and both are relying on their voter bases in Renmore and Mervue to take them over the line. No change here.

Noel Larkin from Wellpark is running as an Independent. Not much has been heard yet from this candidate but the winds of the electorate are behind the backs of well organised independents, he may be positioned to capitalise. Conor Burke is running for the Anti-Austerity Alliance and again, may capitalise from the disillusionment with party politics on the doors. He may be the best placed, of all the AAA candidates, to spring a surprise in Galway city.

Fine Gael

Fine Gael is running three candidates in this ward. John Walsh, brother of TD Brian Walsh is expected to take the FG seat in this area. Relations between the exiled TD and party HQ are still clearly on good terms and it is expected this relationship will assist John to take the seat his brother won in 2004 and again in 2009.

Mr Walsh is joined on his party’s ticket by John Rabbitte from Merlin Park and Margo Kelly from Renmore. Both are essentially cannon fodder for party HQ as FG’s real ambition here is to ensure the FG vote stays in the mid-20s in Galway City East and ease Brian’s arrival back to the party ahead of the next general election.

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil is running two candidates in the form of sitting councillor Michael J Crowe, and local auctioneer, Alan Cheevers. There is much speculation in each of the city’s three wards that Fianna Fáil can win two seats. Insider feels this is achievable in Galway City East, but cautions that such thoughts may also be a bit optimistic at this stage. In terms of the individual candidates, Cllr Crowe will be concerned about the collapse in his vote across Galway city in the 2011 General Election and will be reminded of this fact by many of his supporters. He will need to be on guard that he does not become complacent.

Alan Cheevers has been working hard on the ground in the Roscam area, and to date has been running a very good campaign but may need a few more points in percentage terms to win the last seat in the ward. This is something which is not beyond him given the clear energy and canvassing activity he is putting into his campaign.

Labour

Much of the headlines last week in local papers were of the demise of the Labour Party in Galway city. It was a headline which Insider is sure frightened and motivated local Labour members in equal measure. Mr Mulholland, with his odds, has essentially written off the party’s chances of winning back either of the two Labour seats won by Tom Costello and Derek Nolan in 2009.

In 2009, Labour won 22.1 per cent of the first preference votes when the party was polling 14 per cent nationally. While Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance will be targeting this vote, Insider does not think the Labour vote will collapse to such an extent it cannot win at least one seat in the ward.

Labour is running Cllr Nuala Nolan, who has made a play of the importance of women in the city council and her difficulties in balancing her professional career with the challenges of political life. Her running mate is Monica Coughlan from Monivea Park. Being written off at this stage might be a good thing for both candidates, and it is expected Labour should have more than a fighting chance of winning the final seat with Nuala Nolan best placed to capitalise.

Sinn Féin

Much has been made nationally of Sinn Féin’s rise in the polls with the 2014 Local Elections being the first acid test of its improvement. In 2009, the party ran Martin Concannon in Galway City East who secured 409 votes. This time SF is running 24-year-old Máiréad Farrell, a member of the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle.

Mr Mulholland has put her odds of getting elected at four-to-one on, which is probably a very fair assessment of her likely chances. She has more than a good chance of taking either the fourth or fifth seat for the party and will likely be SF’s first candidate to get elected in Galway city since 2004.

Prediction

With eight weeks left, there is a long way to go in all the candidates’ campaigns and much can change. At this stage though, Insider’s prediction would be for Terry O’Flaherty to top the poll followed by Declan McDonnell. After this, Fine Gael’s John Walsh, Sinn Féin’s Máiréad Farrell, and Fianna Fáil’s Michael Crowe of Fianna Fáil, with the final seat likely to be won by Labour’s Nuala Nolan, but there is a serious chance of FF’s Alan Cheevers taking it as he remains very much in the hunt as well.

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