Fine Gael looks set to take over from Fianna Fáil as the largest party in Galway East while the campaign of Sean Canney should put a stop to Labour hopes of taking a seat here.
Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore, originally from Ahascragh, has placed great store in winning seats in Connacht if his party is to make a significant breakthrough in Election 2011. However with Labour suffering a dip in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign, the idea of his native constituency returning a Labour TD seems to have receded.
Labour’s councillor Colm Keaveney and Lorraine Higgins, were both viewed as being in with a chance of taking one seat for the party. However when Independent councillor Sean Canney declared, Labour hopes took a knock.
Cllr Canney commands one of the largest personal votes in the State, polling a staggering 3,273 first preferences in the Tuam ward in the 2009 locals. Cllr Canney was also involved in the campaign that saw Independent Paddy McHugh elected in 2002 so he knows an independent vote is there to be won.
The feeling in Galway East is that he will be able to get the Tuam and north Galway vote behind him, and with support for Independents at an all time high, there has never been a better time for someone like Cllr Canney.
As the first three seats will go to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Labour’s hopes rested on a strong showing coupled with a weak Independent field. That is no longer the case and Cllr Canney may also benefit from transfers from Independent councillor Tim Broderick, who, although unlikely to be elected, can be expected to put in a strong showing.
Fianna Fáil will be reduced to just one in Galway East for the first time in the party’s history. Veteran TD Michael Kitt looks set to hold in what will otherwise be a bleak day for the party.
Fine Gael is certain of retaining its two seats in Galway East, albeit with two new TDs. Paul Connaughton jr is widely expected to be one of those and is likely to top the poll. However no one is daring to call whether the second FG seat will go to Mayor Jimmy McClearn or Sen Ciaran Cannon.
Mayor McClearn can be expected to draw strong support from traditional Fine Gael supporters more than Sen Cannon can. He will also be the main beneficiary from Cllr Connaughton’s transfers.
However Sen Cannon has run a strong campaign and is expected to draw support from the non-traditional FG base as well as from party supporters, and young families in the growing commuter belt and new estates that have sprung up around Galway East over the last decade.
Overall prediction: Connaughton, Kitt, Cannon/McClearn, Canney.