Wednesday 26 October 2016

'Group of Death' constituency will be most competitive of all

Sean Haughey (Tom Burke)
Sean Haughey (Tom Burke)

The battle of the transfers will decide the outcome in Dublin Bay North, arguably the most competitive constituency in the country.

Some 20 candidates have declared in this five-seat battle- ground, which has been described by observers as the Group of Death.

Dublin Bay North encompasses the two former constituencies of Dublin North Central and Dublin North East.

With a population of almost 150,000, it stretches from the suburbs of Fairview and Marino to towns including Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle.

Six of the candidates are sitting Oireachtas members, while former minister Sean Haughey (inset) is vying to make his Dail return. This constituency is likely to produce a Fianna Fail seat, and both Mr Haughey and Deirdre Heney are essentially jockeying to finish ahead of each other following the first count.

Much focus will be on the performance of former Fianna Fail senator Averil Power, who is running as an Independent after dramatically quitting the party in protest at its lacklustre role in the Marriage Equality referendum.

She will need to rely heavily on transfers if she is to be elected. However, her prospects should not be discounted.

Fine Gael took the bold decision to run three candidates here after the shock defeat of Jobs Minister Richard Bruton at the party's selection convention in Clontarf Castle in April.

Mr Bruton was added to the ticket immediately after delegates selected councillor Naoise O Muiri and party activist Stephanie Regan.

Despite the embarrassing result at the convention, Fine Gael strategists are not contemplating the prospect of a defeat for Mr Bruton.

The Labour Party's Aodhan O Riordain has seen his profile grow significantly after being appointed as Drugs and Equality Minister, and he will benefit from the decision by his Dail colleague Sean Kenny to step down.

One would assume that there is enough Labour support in the constituency to ensure Mr O Riordain goes close, but there is the real prospect that he could become one of the most significant casualties of the election.


Another TD who is vulnerable here is Terence Flanagan, who has worked hard alongside Lucinda Creighton to build up the newly-formed Renua.

At least one Independent candidate is likely to be elected in Dublin Bay North.

Prominent Dail deputy Finian McGrath has joined forces with the Independent Alliance and should hold on to his seat.

Mr McGrath has mastered the strategy of leaflet drops and is aided by his right hand man, Clontarf-based Damian O'Farrell.

But he faces competition from the independent benches from Tommy Broughan, who quit Labour in protest over budget cuts.

Sinn Fein is well-placed to take a seat through either councillor Micheal MacDonncha or Denise Mitchell, neither of whom has a high profile.

The party will need to ensure it manages the vote effectively, given the level of competition.

Michael O'Brien is representing the Anti-Austerity Alliance while John Lyons is the People Before Profit candidate.

Elsewhere, a plethora of Independents and other left-wing candidates will cause the vote to be fragmented.

The Social Democrats are fielding former Fingal mayor Cian O'Callaghan, a highly able councillor who topped the poll in the local elections in his ward of Howth/Malahide.

Jimmy Guerin, the brother of murdered Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin, is also in the race.

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