Galway West stands on the brink of electing its first female TD in almost 20 years, but while the omens are good for Independent Left councillor Catherine Connolly, her route to the Dáil is by no means certain, as Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats are also eyeing that same seat.
Galway West has only once elected a female TD, has never elected more than one Left candidate, and has never returned two Independents, but the current volatility of the electorate means the constituency is the most unpredictable it has ever been, with the final two seats very difficult to call only 24 hours before polling stations open.
Opinion polls, both locally - the Galway Advertiser poll earlier this month, and Tuesday’s poll for TG4 - as well as national polls, and the analysis and groundwork of the various political campaigns in Galway, show Fianna Fáil will retain its seat; Fine Gael is on course to win two; that the Labour seat is vulnerable; at least one, perhaps two, Independents will be returned; and that SF will challenge for a seat.
Sitting FG Seán Kyne looks like retaining his seat, but opinion is divided on whether he will be joined by John O’Mahony or Hildegarde Naughton. A major push has been obvious to position Naughton as the choice of FG and pro-Government voters in the city, however O’Mahony appears to be striking a deeper chord more broadly, and now seems to be ahead of his party colleague/rival.
The combined Government support is c36 per cent in Galway West, well above two quotas, but more than 10 per cent short of three seats, meaning the Government will lose one in the constituency. At just six per cent in the polls, Labour is extremely vulnerable, meaning party candidate, Derek Nolan, faces an uphill struggle of Sisyphean proportions.
The collapse of the Labour vote and a drop in Government support have hurt Nolan’s re-election chances, as has the emergence of the Social Democrats Niall Ó Tuathail - a real dark horse in this race - who is taking disaffected Labour support and competing heavily for the soft Left/liberal vote Nolan is relying on. A further erosion to Nolan’s support comes from former Labour, and now Independent, city councillor Catherine Connolly.
Whether Naughton or O’Mahony is elected for FG, the transfers of the unsuccessful candidate will be vital to the outcome of the final two seats. Nolan can expect some of these, and there are credible indications he could last into the final counts to challenge for a seat. However, while he should not be discounted, given he is about 10 per cent off a full quota, and that some FG transfers will go to Noel Grealish, the Labour seat in Galway looks lost.
The other major battle will be Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh against Independents Catherine Connolly and Noel Grealish. In polls, and via other sources, Ó Clochartaigh is around 11 per cent, between three to five points ahead of Connolly and Grealish. A concern for SF though is that Ó Clochartaigh will struggle to attract transfers, whereas Connolly and Grealish, as proven by previous elections, are extremely transfer friendly. Connolly will get transfers from Labour, the AAA, the Greens, and some Connemara transfers. Grealish can expect to take transfers from FG, FF, and many of the Oranmore based candidates. Mike Cubbard will likely transfer to both. As such, they could close the gap on Connolly and Ó Clochartaigh and he is vulnerable to being overtaken by them.