Fianna Fáil to abandon Oranmore in hunt for two seats at next election?

Area by area breakdown of election vote shows party strongest in Connemara and the city

Eamon Ó Cuív celebrating his re-election at Election 2016. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Eamon Ó Cuív celebrating his re-election at Election 2016. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Will we have another election in a few months' time, or will Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael drop the posturing, realise there is more important work to be done than paying defference to their Civil War legacies, and come to some kind of governmental arrangement?

Whatever happens, one thing is clear, be it months or years away, the parties are still be pouring over the minutiae of the election results, and using them to take the first steps in planning for the next General Election. Key to that analysis will be the area by area breakdown of how the votes went within each constituency in the State.

It is understood Fianna Fáil have been examining the distribution of its vote within the various regions that go to make up Galway West, and is actively considering doing something not done before - running two candidates instead of three. This narrowing of focus is a response to how poorly the FF vote was managed in February, in contrast to FG, when the latter party received a slightly lower percentage of the vote, but came away with two seats, as opposed to FF taking just one; the fact Independent Noel Grealish has taken much of the old FF vote in the Oranmore region for himself; and that FF's vote shows the party has potential to challenge for two seats, but only by not running a candidate in the Oranmore area, and instead drafting a carefully managed, more narrowly focussed campaign, aimed solely at Connemara and the city.

FF's John Connolly polled quite well in parts of Connemara, and overall came fourth in the region, behind Eamon Ó Cuív, Seán Kyne, and Noel Grealish, and just ahead of Catherine Connolly. Of course this result was distorted by the presence of areas like his native Barna, as well as Killanin, where he would be expected to poll strongly, but to get ahead of Dep Ó Cuív in a number of polling stations was still impressive.

Dep Ó Cuív repaid the compliment, however, by outpolling Mr Connolly in quite a few city stations. That Dep Ó Cuív did well, indeed did best of all candidates in Connemara, is to state the obvious. Worth noting though is that his vote was up on 2011 and he extended his lead over Dep Kyne in north and west Connemara. Dep Ó Cuív secured 30 per cent of the vote in Connemara, with Dep Kyne on 18 per cent. Sinn Féin's Trevor Ó Clochtaraigh was on 15 per cent, while Connolly's Catherine and John were both around the six/seven per cent mark.

The figures for Fianna Fáil in the eastern part of Galway West were far less impressive. Cllr Mary Hoade's poor performance was a combination of a number of factors, chiefly that half her stomping ground lay in Galway East; her having to contend with the formidable presence of Noel Grealish; and the fact Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton was always going to get a decent vote in the area.

Dep Grealish received 31 per cent of all votes in the Oranmore ward, a substantial return on the c12,500 votes cast there. While he has a substantial personal vote, and is very transfer friendly, these figures strongly suggest Dep Grealish has captured the old FF/Frank Fahey vote in the region. Across the polling stations in the Oranmore area, it is noticable how the FF vote is consistently low and significantly below the constituency average while the FG vote held up reasonably well, initial readings showing it to be a little above constituency average.

Some FF members in Galway West have long complained that Party HQ takes no interest in the area, seeing it as a constituency that comfortably will return one TD, but no more than that. However, the fact FG won two seats on 24.04 per cent to FF's one on 24.31 per cent reveals the possibility of taking two seats in the future - something FF has not done since 2007.

The area by area breakdown also reveals that Oranmore is a no-go area for FF in General Elections as long as Dep Grealish, and to a lesser extent, Dep Naughton are there, so to win two seats, concentrating on the city and Connemara could be the way, and it is understood that even at this early stage, this approach is being seriously considered by party strategists.

FF grassroots in the area will not like it, they will complain of areas being left unrepresented, but the party overall is ruthless in pursuit of power. If ditching running a candidate in the eastern section of Galway West is what it takes to get two seats back, then that is what will be done.

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