Fianna Fáil holds its Galway West Election 2016 selection convention in The Clayton Hotel this evening. Six candidates have been nominated for inclusion on what is likely to be a three person ticket for the constituency, but only five of them will be seeking delegate support.
TD Éamon Ó Cuív, county councillor Mary Hoade, former city councillor John Connolly, as well as Eric Mortimer, and Stephanie Murphy-Penn, will be seeking selection. Despite being nominated, and widely expected to become the party standard bearer in the city, Cllr Ollie Crowe has declined to stand on this occasion.
As a result, the most intense battle of the evening is likely to be between John Connolly, who served on the Galway City Council from 2004 to 2009, and who has the backing of councillors Ollie and Michael J Crowe, and NUI Galway IT project manager Eric Mortimer, who has support from senior party members.
The party will be looking to run a ticket which covers the three main bases of the constituency - Connemara, the city, and Oranmore/Headford. Dep Ó Cuív's inclusion on the ticket is a foregone conclusion given he is the sitting TD and the intense loyalty he commands from Connemara voters. He also possesses the safest Fianna Fáil seat in the State.
At present poll figures, FF is c10 points short of reaching two quotas and is unlikely to take a second seat. However the party will be keen to maximise its vote across the constituency, and give candidates' general election experience. In this regard Cllr Hoade, given her years of experience on Galway County Council and strong base in the Headford area should be able to hold her own against the region's three 'big beasts' of Independent TD Noel Grealish, still seen as the most likely to hold the seat in Oranmore; Independent senator Fidelma Healy-Eames; and Renua councillor James Charity.
The city vote will be crucial for Fianna Fáil so the contest between the strongest candidates - Messrs Connolly and Mortimer - will be the most intense. While FF will struggle to take a seat here as well, the party will want to see a strong performance that will point towards being more compeitive in the future.
It is understood that the groundswell of delegates' support is behind Mr Connolly, with Cllr Mike Crowe saying Mr Connolly "has pedigree, is located within the heart of Galway city and has significant experience over other city candidates". However Mr Mortimer has impressed party members and should not be underestimated either. It will be interesting to see which of the two men triumphs tonight.