Fine Gael’s Brian Walsh is to become the new ‘big name’ in Galway West politics, while Fianna Fáil’s Frank Fahey, a major name on the national stage, will lose his seat, according to a new opinion poll for Galway West carried out by the Galway Advertiser.
The poll, carried out at 41 different locations throughout the constituency last Thursday and Friday, using a sample ballot paper and interviewing 410 voters, shows that the Fianna Fáil vote has collapsed, unlike the Fine Gael, Left, and Independent votes which have increased.
Galway West was long one of the most predictable and, in its voting habits, conservative constituencies, but the poll shows a new political era beginning to emerge - Fine Gael wins two seats, Fianna Fáil drop to one, Labour holds on, and the constituency elects its first Independent TD and only its second ever female TD.
However, the poll shows that six of the 17 candidates have broken away from the field for the five seats and that Independent councillor Catherine Connolly will still be heavily involved in the race for the fifth seat.
FG emerge as the biggest political party in the constituency with 31 per cent. Fianna Fáil’s long dominance comes to an abrupt end as it achieves only 19 per cent support, a fall of almost 18 per cent since 2004. The Independents fare very well, scoring almost two quotas at 28 per cent. Labour gets 12 per cent, Sinn Féin gets six, and the Greens are on three.
Councillor Brian Walsh tops the poll with 14.88 per cent of the vote, and is elected with 17.56 per cent. Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív takes the second seat with a combined vote of 18.05 per cent, having received 10.73 per cent of first preferences.
In a reflection of the more fractured nature of the electorate, which has resulted from the collapse of the traditional patterns and loyalties, according to the poll, the final three seats are won by candidates who fail to reach the quota.
Labour councillor Derek Nolan gets 11.95 per cent of the vote and wins the third seat on a combined vote of 14.88 per cent. Independent Noel Grealish gets 11.22 per cent first preferences and takes the fourth seat, also with a vote of 14.88 per cent. If he repeats this on February 25, he will become the first Independent to have been elected in Galway West since the constituency was created in 1937.
Dep Grealish’s main rival in the Oranmore area, Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames also gets 11.22 per cent in our poll, and takes the last seat with a combined total of 13.9 per cent. However, hovering just underneath is Independent councillor Catherine Connolly whose first preference vote of 8.95 per cent rises to 11.95 per cent following transfers.
Being just four points shy of a quota gives her an outside chance and sets up the prospect of a fierce battle between herself and Sen Healy-Eames, not only for the final seat, but for the right to be the first woman elected in Galway West since Máire Geoghegan Quinn.
Speculation and debate up to now had seen the fight for the last seat as being between Connolly, Grealish, and Fahey or Crowe. However the dramatic fall in Fianna Fáil support means it is not able to challenge for a second seat, being short the 11 to 14 per cent needed to reach two quotas.
Much of that vote has gone towards the other parties, particularly it seems FG and Independents and it is impossible to see where any other votes for FF can come from. Also the fall in Dep Fahey’s vote to 5.85 per cent ensures he is not in the running for a seat, while Mayor Michael J Crowe’s dismal showing of 2.68 per cent is among the lowest of all, placing him 12th on a list of 17 candidates.