We are down to almost the last week of this General Election campaign and for arguably the first time in many campaigns, it genuinely is all to play for in the five seat constituency of Galway West.
Astute political observers have repeatably said this to Insider in recent weeks. The belief is that, because of the political climate among voters, there is less certainty than at all other times. This week’s TG4 Poll confirms this. There are several surprises within it. First, it has Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton topping the poll on 13 per cent, followed by, albeit unsurprisingly, Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuív on 12 per cent.
After this comes another surprise in the form of the Social Democrats Niall Ó Tuathail on 12 per cent, followed by the Green Party's Galway City West councillor, Pauline O'Reilly, on 10 per cent. The Government chief whip, and Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne, follows on 10 per cent, with Independent Left TD Catherine Connolly at nine per cent. Fianna Fáil Galway City Central councillor, Ollie Crowe, is on eight per cent. Independent TD Noel Grealish and Sinn Féin candidate Mairéad Farrell are both on seven per cent.
Labour's Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, is on five per cent, while the Galway city mayor, and Independent councillor, Mike Cubbard is on three per cent. At this stage, even nine days out from polling day, both are seen as also rans.
Who are in the hunt for seats?
So, based on this poll, there are nine people in contention for the five seats. What is for certain is that there is one seat each for Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and the Left. The other two are wide open and there is no clear certainty on where they will go. First preferences are obviously always important, but, based on these numbers, the candidates who can attract transfers will be invaluable.
The poll was carried out among 525 persons over two days last weekend and carries a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent. As a result, Insider is advising some caution in taking it as gospel.
The big two parties are both pushing hard for two seats. It is unlikely both will be successful. Having studied national polls in recent weeks, all the signs are that Fine Gael will end up with fewer seats than Fianna Fáil so, regardless of whether FG wins two seats here or not, it is unlikely to have any impact in the formation of a government. That said, both deputies Naughton and Kyne are in strong positions to retain their seats.
'Dep Grealish, and former city councillor Máiréad Farrell come in at seven per cent and both will be challenging for seats'
However, if Fianna Fáil are successful in winning two seats, it will more than likely have significant bearing in both trying to form a government and also for the region. Dep Éamon Ó Cuív is a certainty but if he can help bring in Cllr Ollie Crowe, who has run a high profile campaign focusing on the bypass and a new accident and emergency unit, then it will be more likely than not that both of these projects will be delivered, if for no other reason than Fianna Fáil will not want to give up its two seats in Galway West again.
Connolly v Soc Dems v Greens
The common view was that there would be a seat between the Social Democrat's Niall Ó Tuathail, the Greens' Cllr Pauline O'Reilly [pictured below], and Independent Catherine Connolly. On this poll, there will be not one, but two seats, and on a good day, all three might get in. Interestingly all three are against the building of the bypass and want all the monies put in to buses, cycle ways, and pedestrian infrastructure.
'Labour are in dire straits in most constituencies and this one is no different. The party is just not resonating'
Dep Grealish, and former city councillor Máiréad Farrell come in at seven per cent and both will be challenging for seats. Insider senses that Independents will not perform as well across the country as they did in 2016, but time will tell.
Labour are in dire straits in most constituencies and this one is no different. The party is just not resonating, and the Greens and Social Democrats are eating their lunch. Mayor of Galway Cllr Mike Cubbard is running as an Independent and, while he did well in last years local elections, this is different and he is not impacting broadly enough across many of the areas.
It is always dangerous calling who will win and who will lose but, based on listening to the public, observing polls both locally and nationally, Insider is of the view that for the first time in the history of Galway West, there is only one certainly and that is Dep Éamon Ó Cuív. After that, the only other certainty is that four will be elected from Naughton, Kyne, Crowe, Grealish, Connolly, Ó Tuathail, O’Reilly and Farrell. It is all to play for. The count will be interesting.