Fianna Fáil is in danger of being reduced to one seat in Galway West at the next general election while Labour and Catherine Connolly look like fighting it out for the left wing seat, according to a new poll.
This new poll was commissioned by Fine Gael HQ ahead of the party’s Election Selection Convention for Galway West which takes place on Sunday November 21. It was carried out in the last fortnight, among 400 people in the constituency.
While 400 people is too small a snapshot of Galway West to be regarded as definitive, it is nonetheless a snapshot of the direction voters’ minds are taking. Also the overall results largely chime with anecdotal evidence and the views of analysts on how things are likely to go in a general election.
The results show Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív topping the poll. However this is the only piece of good news for the party as it also indicates Fianna Fáil will struggle to hold onto its second seat and face a battle royal with Fine Gael for the last seat.
The second and third seats will go to Fine Gael TD Pádraic McCormack and Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish. The Left will take also a seat, but, in a scenario that will worry Labour, the poll indicates that the fourth seat will be a fight between it and Independent councillor Catherine Connolly.
Cllr Connolly’s strong, articulate, and intelligent voice and analysis will serve her well among an electorate looking for answers to the current economic crisis. Labour’s poll ratings show voters are open to the party, but the departure of Michael D Higgins and Cllr Connolly’s profile show Labour needs to decide on its ticket soon and put the names of its candidates in the public mind.
The party is currently deciding whether to run one or two candidates in Galway West and is choosing from a line-up of Derek Nolan, Niall McNelis, Colette Connolly, and Eamonn Walsh.
The fight for the last seat, according to this poll, will be between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, but it is too close to call. The figures also show that, in terms of individual candidates, the fight will be between Senator Fidelma Healy Eames/Cllr Brian Walsh for FG and Dep Frank Fahey/Mayor Michael J Crowe for Fianna Fáil.
Interestingly, Sen Healy Eames and Cllr Walsh are level in terms of support among those polled. This could set up an interesting scenario for the party’s selection convention. FG members will choose two on the night with a third candidate likely to be added later.
Both Sen Healy Eames and Cllr Walsh are based in the east of the constituency and this will make it harder for delegates to decide who is the best option to run. Running both may risk splitting the vote and giving Fianna Fáil a lifeline.
However Cllr Walsh can take comfort from the fact that he is neck and neck with Sen Healy Eames who ran in both the 2002 and 2007 elections and who has a national profile.
If Fine Gael is spoiled for choice, the poll makes grim reading for Fianna Fáil. According to the figures, the last FFer standing will either be Frank Fahey or Michael J Crowe, but that Crowe’s support is somewhat stronger than Dep Fahey’s.
Overall the poll indicates that the days of Fianna Fáil bullishly contesting for three seats in Galway West is gone and that it is reduced to hoping it can hold onto the two it already has. However this task will be made extremely difficult for a number of reasons.
It is no exaggeration to describe the current Government as being detested, if not hated outright, by the public owing to its squandering of the boom; its mortgaging of the State to pay for dead and zombie banks; it’s inability to prevent debts and deficits from rising; and its detachment from/indifference to the fears of ordinary people. This is not a situation in which Fianna Fáil can go into the election with confidence.
Fine Gael has overtaken Fianna Fáil in the national polls over the past year and if this continues and is replicated in the next general election, the advantage lies with FG and Fianna Fáil will lose it’s second seat in Galway West.
Also, the elections over the past decade have shown a small, but steady, decline in support for Fianna Fáil, a trend confirmed again by this new Fine Gael poll. Mayor Crowe and his team bucked that trend in the 2009 Local Elections. However a local election is a very different matter to a general election and the depth of anger in 2009 was more like a ‘mild irritation’ in comparison to the contempt people feel for the party right now.
Another issue which should cause Fianna Fáil concern comes from the very nature of polls themselves. Constituency polls sometimes do not pick up the full extent of how badly a party on the way down is going to do.
An example is the series of polls TG4 carried out in the 18 months before Election 2002. The polls - indeed few polls from any source - forecast the FG meltdown other than perhaps those in the very final weeks of the campaign. Given that this poll is not a great one for Fianna Fáil, the actual outcome could be much worse.
Fianna Fáil will undoubtedly be conducting its own researches into voter attitudes and if the figures tally with the FG poll and anecdotal evidence, there may be a chance that the party might take the unprecedented step of running just two candidates to prevent any leakage of votes between candidates and as a damage limitation exercise.