The face of Galway politics will be changed completely over the next 48 hours as the county, across its two constituencies, will return between five to seven new TDs.
Long standing traditions will be overturned after Galwegians cast their votes tomorrow and Galway West in particular looks set to record an unprecedented array of firsts after polling day.
Galway West could elect an Independent candidate for the first time; Fianna Fáil is certain to fall to one seat which has never happened before; and the Left could return two candidates, which would also be a first.
Fine Gael are practically assured of winning two seats, the first time this has happened since November 1982; and at least one female TD is to be elected - only the second time this has happened in Galway West. However there is an outside chance that two women TDs could be returned after Friday. If that happens, it will be the first time since the constituency was created in 1937.
Galway East will also record a first as Fine Gael looks set to win more seats than its nemesis Fianna Fáil, which was for decades the stronger of the two in the constituency.
Overall this election will see Fine Gael become the largest party in Galway, taking two seats in Galway East and Galway West, thereby ending Fianna Fáil’s traditional dominance of the county.
The prevailing view in Galway West is that Fine Gael will win two seats and Fianna Fáil one, with the last three being a battle between Independents and Labour.
Fine Gael’s Brian Walsh and Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív are regarded as near certainties to win seats. FG senator Fidelma Healy Eames is widely regarded as being in line to take a second seat for FG, although there is a minority who view Cllr Hildegarde Naughton as being in with a chance.
The hardest seats to call are the last two. Labour’s Derek Nolan has run a good campaign and he has been well received. Labour is confident he can hold the seat previously held by Michael D Higgins, but Cllr Nolan needs the Labour vote, the young vote, and crucially, those who had been loyal to Michael D, even though they were not Labour supporters. However he seems well placed to win a seat on his first time out for the Dáil.
Independent councillor Catherine Connolly has also run a solid campaign and has made inroads outside her city base. She is seen as a real contender for the last seat but Carnmore based TD Noel Grealish will not go down without a fight.
If Sen Healy Eames is elected, this would give Cllr Connolly the best chance of taking a seat - thereby gifting the Left two in Galway West - as Oranmore/Headford will not elect two TDs. However if Sen Healy Eames fails in her bid, this frees up votes for Dep Grealish, leaving Connolly and Nolan to fight it out.
The election will also see a major casualty in Fianna Fáil’s Frank Fahey. Even close allies of Dep Fahey are conceding defeat, acknowledging that the party does not have enough support to effectively challenge for two seats.
While Cllr Kyne and Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh will not take seats this time, expect them to put in strong showings.
By Saturday, Galway West will see at least three new TDs, the first election of an Independent in Grealish or Connolly, one/two woman elected in Healy Eames and/or Connolly, and Fine Gael becoming the largest party.
In Galway East the main battle is not the traditional Fine Gael v Fianna Fáil, but that within FG and between Labour and the Independents.
Councillor Paul Connaughton jr looks set to romp home and retain the seat originally held by his father. Fianna Fáil will drop to just one seat for the first time since Galway East was created in 1937 with the veteran Michael Kitt becoming the constituency’s sole FF representative.
However the Fianna Fáil result will become a sideshow in comparison with what will happen elsewhere in the constituency.
Fine Gael is on course to win a second seat but no-one is daring to call whether it will be the Mayor of Galway Jimmy McClearn or Sen Ciaran Cannon who will win.
The other major battle will be between Independent Tuam based councillor Sean Canney and Labour.
Labours Cllr Colm Keaveney has put in a strong campaign while Lorraine Higgins got off to a great start. However it appears that neither will be able to stop Cllr Canney.
Cllr Canney enjoyed one of the largest votes in the State in the 2009 locals and his solid support in north Galway and the fact that Galway East has elected an Independent before, augurs well for him tomorrow. Expect him to take the seat ahead of the Labour challenge.