Galway West looks set to elect an Independent TD for the first time in its 74-year history, according to the Galway Advertiser poll on the constituency, but it also shows mixed fortunes for the smaller parties.
Seven Independents are running in 2011, the highest number since 1987 when six ran. Of these, our poll shows that only two - Noel Grealish and Catherine Connolly - have a realistic chance of being elected.
The combined Independent vote is 28 per cent, which is not far from the 30/33 per cent needed to take two seats in a five seater. As such the Independents can expect to see at least one of their number returned after February 25. It is also double the national opinion poll figures, which is interesting given Galway West’s normal reluctance to support Independents.
Despite this most of them fare only modestly in our poll. Mike Cubbard secured 3.17 per cent, Cllr Tom Welby received 2.68 per cent, while Eamon Walsh received 2.2 per cent. However the campaigns of the enigmatic Thomas King and the late entry Uinseann Holmes have failed to get off the ground, with each recording a miserable 0.24 per cent.
All are dwarfed by Dep Grealish who records 11.22 per cent of first preferences in our poll and Cllr Connolly who gets 8.54 per cent.
Both candidates enjoy a solid, a largely even, rate of transfers from across the political divide - Grealish receives 3.75 and Connolly 3.51 - but fascinatingly our poll shows that what makes the difference is Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. A total of 1.22 per cent of his transfers go to Dep Grealish as opposed to only 0.49 per cent to Cllr Connolly.
Given that Mr Ó Clochartaigh is on the Left his vote would have been expected to go to Cllr Connolly. However this shows the Connemara man’s vote draws from a far wider pool and much of it would be personal, as opposed to strictly Sinn Féin.
Crucially for Dep Grealish, he stays two/three points ahead of Cllr Connolly on every count, resulting in a total vote of 14.88 per cent against the 11.95 per cent for the Claddagh woman.
This plus the transfer factor ensures the Carnmore man keeps his seat. He also becomes the first Independent elected to the constituency since it was created in 1937. However, given he was a former PD, it could also be seen as Galway West’s lingering nostalgia for the party founded here by Des O’Malley in 1985.
Cllr Connolly’s strong showing gives her an outside chance of taking a seat, creating the potential of two Independent TDs in Galway West. However the last three seats, according to our poll, are won without the candidates reaching the quota. This means there will be no surplus votes from the three candidates for the Independent councillor, who stays in until the very end. As a result, winning a seat may be more of a long shot than Cllr Connolly can manage.
As regards the small parties, the Greens’ Sen Niall Ó Brolcháin records 3.17 per cent support, a fall from his 5.5 per cent showing in 2007. He can still take heart from the fact his support is still above the national average for the party.
Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh polls 5.61 per cent in our poll. It is a solid showing for the first time candidate, and although he only manages a total of 6.59 per cent, he lasts until the 10th count, equaling the total vote of Fianna Fáil’s Frank Fahey.
It is an improvement on the three per cent SF got in 2007 and almost identical to the 2002 vote of 5.7 per cent which the party only achieved by running two candidates. Given what was discussed about Mr Ó Clochartaigh above, his overall performance shows he has potential to take a Galway County Council seat, should he decide to contest the local elections in 2014