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Thursday 12 December 2019

FG and FF to lose out in Fingal as Murphy set for seat after migrants row

Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy
Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy

Fine Gael has given up on senator James Reilly regaining his Dail seat in Dublin Fingal, with suggestions that the Fine Gael vote in the constituency is likely to collapse.

Fianna Fail is not expecting senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee to take a seat following a campaign mired by controversy over tweets from several years ago in which she spoke about Travellers in derogatory terms.

The seat is seen as a battle between Labour's Duncan Smith and the Greens' Joe O'Brien.

Fine Gael is confident that councillor Emer Higgins will take a seat in Dublin Mid-West, but former Green TD Paul Gogarty could pip her on transfers.

The party also believes that Verona Murphy will top the poll after the first count in the Wexford bye-election today, giving her a chance of a shock Dail seat but creating more difficulties for the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar has backed the Fine Gael candidate despite a controversial campaign in which she repeatedly linked migrants in Ireland to Islamic State - remarks for which she later apologised.

The party privately acknow- ledges the difficulties her election to the Dail could cause, given that Fine Gael faced calls from migrants' rights groups to drop her after her remarks.

However, party figures believe they have won the ground war in Wexford, running a stronger campaign than Fianna Fail favourite Malcolm Byrne.

One Fine Gael source said Ms Murphy's migrant comments had not adversely affected her campaign.

"She is getting a great result on the doorsteps, with most people believing what she said was taken out of context by the media," the source said.

Poll

"She could top the poll, but transfers will be key. Many non-typical Fine Gael supp- orters likened her to Mick Wallace."

Another Fine Gael source, who said transfers would be crucial when the count gets under way tomorrow, added: "She's going to top the poll."

Ironically, Ms Murphy's election to the Dail could mean one of her first acts as a TD would be to take part in a vote of confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on Tuesday.

Ms Murphy criticised the embattled minister during her turbulent campaign, but a senior Fine Gael source insisted she would "of course" back him.

Defending his campaign last night, Mr Byrne said: "We have run a positive and constructive campaign, setting out ideas to deal with the challenges this county faces.

"I think voters in Wexford will reject Fine Gael's failures in health, housing, agriculture."

A senior Fianna Fail source admitted Ms Murphy was "still in the race", but expressed the view that Mr Byrne would take the seat with transfers from Lab- our candidate George Lawlor.

The source also said Fianna Fail would hold its seat in Cork North-Central.

Councillor Padraig O'Sullivan is expected to succeed Billy Kelleher, who was elected to the European Parliament in May.

Fine Gael gives senator Colm Burke a chance of causing an upset following a strong campaign.

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