Local bookmaker John Mulholland recently revealed betting odds for the anticipated Galway West candidates in next year’s General Election, and today Insider takes a look at the runners and riders, and examines where the smart money lies as the battlefield heats up ahead of what is likely to be an epic electoral contest.
Éamon Ó Cuív (1/80 ): It came as no surprise to see that John Mulholland had installed Fianna Fáil’s Connemara stalwart as 1/80 favourite to win a seat in 2016. He managed to take the first seat here in 2011 despite the cataclysmic collapse of his party’s national vote. It should be comparatively plain sailing for the former minister without that same ferocious headwind of public anger next year.
As if his vice-like grasp on the seat - which he has held since 1992 - was not strong enough, changes to electoral boundaries heralded by the Constituency Commission in 2012 gifted Dep Ó Cuív a large swathe of additional territory at his own backdoor. Around 10,000 people in south Mayo will cast their vote in Galway West at the next election. These voters reside in areas such as Cong, Glencorrib, Shrule, and Ballinrobe – localities close to Dep Ó Cuív’s base in Cornamona.
He has effectively been ordained their local TD by default, and only an Act of God could prevent the uncrowned King of Connemara from retaining his Dáil seat with considerable ease.
Noel Grealish (1/4 ): The runner identified by John Mulholland as the second favourite in the electoral race comes as more of a surprise.
Dep Grealish crawled over the line to snatch the final seat in his first general election outing in 2002. Since then, he has taken the fourth seat at two subsequent elections, garnering around 0.6 of a quota each time.
Critics might joke that he has recycled his election literature every year since 2002, which each time promised the elusive Claregalway Relief Road, but there is no doubt he continues to enjoy strong support in the east of the county.
In recent elections, much of his territory, centred around the Oranmore/Carnmore area, was the subject of a two-way battle between Dep Grealish and the Maree based Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames (6/1 ).
Dep Grealish’s fortune in 2016 will depend heavily on how Senator Healy-Eames’ performance since 2011 and her defection from Fine Gael impact on her electability. Her departure from FG means that Dep Grealish is no longer the only recognisable Independent in the eastern part of the constituency, and the announcement of candidacy by Independent councillor James Charity (9/2 from John Mulholland ) from Annaghdown will make for an even more competitive environment.
Catherine Connolly (8/11 ): The long-serving city councillor came within an agonising 17 votes of securing a seat in Galway West at the last general election. It was a hugely impressive performance from the former Labour representative, who had nurtured support bases in the city and in Connemara during a long, and well-fought, campaign.
She has continued to impress at local-authority level and is poised to capitalise on the anticipated collapse of Labour support in 2016. The party has nosedived in the polls and, at current levels, would haemorrhage left-wing votes and lose its seat in Galway West.
Coupled with the parallel rise in support for Independents, Cllr Connolly looks to be an excellent bet to improve on her 2011 performance and take one of the five Galway West seats next year.
Brian Walsh (4/5 ): Fine Gael’s standard-bearer is the next favourite to claim a seat in Galway West, according to John Mulholland. He was elected third in 2011 behind deputies Ó Cuív and Derek Nolan, although it has been a rollercoaster Dáil term for Dep Walsh in the intervening period.
He was tipped for promotion before having a high-profile falling out with Fine Gael in July 2013. He looked set to contest the next election as an Independent before being brought back into the party fold by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, last April.
He appears to be back in favour with the party hierarchy, and he may also be able to add to his electoral armour, the support of those floating voters who admired the fact he was seen to stand up to his party and lose the whip on a matter of principle.
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (1/1 ): An improved performance will be needed from both Senator Ó Clochartaigh and Sinn Féin if he is to claim a seat for the party in Galway West.
Recent polls suggest SF has a strong chance of winning a seat, but whether Sen Ó Clochartaigh is the candidate to fill it remains open to question. He will have to compete with Dep Ó Cuív for votes in Connemara, and it is possible that SF city councillor Máiréad Farrell (who also gets 1/1 odds from John Mulholland ) might be better placed to capitalise on support for the party in 2016.
According to John Mulholland, two sitting TDs will face the chop at the next election. Fine Gael’s Sean Kyne (1/1 ), who won a second seat in 2011 for the party by a margin of 17 votes for the first time since 1982, is one of those. He could be another candidate to suffer from a resurgent Dep Ó Cuív in Connemara, and odds reflecting a 50:50 chance seems like a fair assessment.
Labour’s Derek Nolan (3/1 ) also appears to be in the Dáil’s departure lounge, according to the bookies. He topped the poll in 2011 but, in the absence of key support from Michael D Higgins this time, coupled with his party’s collapse in the polls, he is an outsider to hold his seat.
The intentions of Fine Gael Mayo TD John O’Mahony (5/2 ) remains the great unknown. If he migrates south to Galway West after the redrawing of constituencies, he could greatly impact on the Fine Gael dynamic here.
He managed the Galway football team to two All-Irelands but his chances of success off the field in the constituency are far less certain. His presence might help the party to push for two seats, but these would likely go to the incumbents Walsh and Kyne.
Also-rans: Eamon Walsh (6/1 ), Mike Cubbard (6/1 ), Tom Welby (7/1 ), Christina Níc Dhonnacha (7/1 ), Hildegarde Naughton (7/1 ), Niall Ó Brolcháin (16/1 ). They say bookmakers rarely get it wrong, and Insider does not believe these also rans will be challenging that maxim in 2016.