Derek Nolan - is he really a politically dead duck?

Dep Derek Nolan stepping into the viewing platform for the St Patrick's Day Parade in 2011.

Dep Derek Nolan stepping into the viewing platform for the St Patrick's Day Parade in 2011.

Insider is going against the grain here, but let him go out on a charred and severed limb, daring to posit that Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan is not the electorally dead in the water, threatened with extinction political animal, that he appears to be.

Not for one moment is Insider suggesting that Dep Nolan is a dead cert - not even the most mindlessly optimistic Labour supporter would try spinning that yarn in the face of the recent Red C/Sunday Business Post poll which shows Labour at an endangered species level of seven per cent.

However a combination of local factors - political, geographic, and electoral - could conspire to allow him ‘slip in the back door’, but it will still be a very tall order for the young man.

Connemara Sinn Féin blues

Last Sunday’s Red C poll was Fine Gael (24 per cent ), Sinn Féin (21 ), Fianna Fáil (18 ), Labour (seven ), Independents (30 ), and Lucinda Creighton’s PD Núa party, ReBoot Ireland (one per cent ), which is largely in line with polls over the last year and, in many respects, contained no surprises.

If those poll figures were replicated exactly across five-seat Galway West in Election 2016, where the quota is 16.67 per cent, Éamon Ó Cuív (FF ), a Fine Gael candidate, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (SF ), and Independents Noel Grealish and Catherine Connolly would be returned. For many, this is the most likely, and most realistic, assessment and result.

Insider does not disagree, but wants to raise a number of caveats which should not be discounted. Remember, the poll is a sample of the mood across the State and cannot take into account local factors.

Chief among those is Éamon Ó Cuív. When talking about Galway West, we are talking about candidates competing for four seats. The fifth already belongs to Dep Ó Cuív who will be comfortably returned, taking the vast majority of Connemara votes. The addition of south Mayo to Galway West further copperfastens his seat.

Another to benefit from south Mayo’s addition is Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne. Dep Kyne got in by the skin of his teeth in 2011 and there will be no FG ‘bounce’ in 2016 to push him over the line. However south Mayo increases the Moycullen man’s stomping ground and comes with a strong FG vote in the area. What will hurt Dep Kyne though is if former Galway GAA All-Ireland football winning manager and Mayo TD John O’Mahony relocates to Galway West. Either way FG has one seat and it is most likely to come from Connemara.

The most likely victim of ‘the Dep Ó Cuív factor’ is Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Although he has commanded a good vote in previous elections, he has always been well short and will struggle to get many No 1s in the Connemara heartlands that are Dep Ó Cuív’s fiefdom, with FG’s Kyne/O’Mahony gobbling up the remainder on the western and northwestern edges of the region.

SF may yet rue the decision not to include city councillor Máiréad Farrell on the ticket. Her presence in the city, and more generally the east of the constituency, would shore up the SF vote here, and, with good transfers, help Sen Ó Clochartaigh over the line. As things stand he must play second fiddle in Connemara while leaving the city and Oranmore free for other candidates.

Things are further complicated for Sen Ó Clochartaigh by Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly. She was very unlucky not to take a seat in 2011, but with a bounce for both the Left and Independents, she will be a serious contender in 2016. She is well respected in Connemara where she is the natural successor to the Left-Republican vote of her friend and ally, former Independent county councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig, and will pull strongly from this pool.

There is one hope for SF though. In its councillors, the party has all bases covered, but to elect Sen Ó Clochartaigh, a heroic, relentless, and co-ordinated effort from Cllr Tom Healy in Connemara, Cllr Gabe Cronnolly in Athenry, and the three city councillors is needed. That itself though poses the question - could Connemara do what has never been done before and return three candidates based there, while the vastly more populous city returns only one? Is that not as wild a suggestion as saying Dep Nolan can still take a seat?

‘The end of the world is the break we’re looking for, Rodney’

Although Connemara is important for Catherine Connolly, her primary vote that should see her into the Dáil will come from the city. It is in the city, and the city only, that Dep Nolan’s slim chance exists - at least on a theoretical level. There is nothing for Dep Nolan in Connemara and nothing for him in Oranmore. That latter area is already the electoral bear-pit of Independents Dep Grealish, Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames, and Cllr James Charity.

Dep Grealish has twice been elected without reaching the quota, proof he is a tough, tenacious, survivor. Three attempts at a Dáil seat with FG have so far proved unsuccessful for Sen Healy-Eames. Cllr Charity is ambitious and could be a dark horse, but few would bet against Dep Grealish keeping the seat. FG Sen Hildegarde Naughton will be just a bystander on this occasion. However she (like Cllr Charity ) is young enough to know there is still another chance.

So, back to the city. The ‘Big Beasts’ here are FG Dep Brian Walsh and FF city councillor Ollie Crowe. Poll figures indicate there is only one seat each for the parties, which means it is unlikely to be Cllr Crowe’s day yet and that Dep Walsh is at risk of losing his seat. That said, on only seven per cent, in a constituency that needs 16.67 to get a seat, it is surely ludicrous to think Dep Nolan has any hope.

“The end of the world is the break we’re looking for, Rodney,” Del Boy declared in a classic episode of Only Fools And Horses, and really this is all Dep Nolan can hope for. To return to the Dáil he needs Sen Ó Clochartaigh to fail, Dep Walsh to lose his seat, and for Cllr Crowe to be foiled.

Cllr Connolly’s main city vote is in the centre and west of the city, leaving some space for Dep Nolan in the east. Under gender quotas FG will have to run Sen Naughton, but with the party seven points off two quotas, and Dep Walsh and Sen Naughton both based in the east, they could cancel each other out. This, along with SF leaving the city wide open, could be the way Dep Nolan squeezes back in - provided he gets around 5-6,000 first preferences and serious transfers from FG. It might be enough to see him scrape the last seat without reaching the quota.

Insider acknowledges it is a very long shot, but puts it forward as a scenario to consider. Equally the case could be made along the same lines for Dep Walsh - who many have been writing off for months - with Nolan and Naughton transfers getting him to the last seat. In conclusion, it shows that outside of two certainties, Dep Ó Cuív and one FG seat, nothing should be taken for granted in Galway West.

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