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Monday 20 August 2018

Andrew Lynch: City's voters have power -- and they'll keep parties sweating until bitter end

The voters of Dublin now hold the result of this election in their hands.

That's the key finding of today's poll, which shows Fine Gael and Labour virtually neck and neck in the capital city.

Even a small swing to one party or the other over the next 10 days would make a huge difference in terms of Dail seats.

The late Fianna Fail minister Seamus Brennan often pointed out that with 47 seats at stake over 12 constituencies, Dublin was "the cockpit of any election". As far as most voters are concerned, Gilmore deserves to be the pilot.

The Labour leader's high satisfaction rating will give his troops hope that they can turn things around by pushing the 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' line right up to polling day.

At the last General Election in 2007, a late surge in support gave FF 19 Dublin seats. Since then, its vote has collapsed to the point where it now has just six councillors out of 52 and only one south of the River Liffey.

All those disillusioned FF supporters are up for grabs -- and Labour's excellent local election result in 2009 suggested it was best placed to grab them. Today's poll shows that it won't be that simple.

FG has almost caught up with Labour, which means that both parties have hopes of taking two seats in almost every constituency.

That should make Gilmore nervous -- because while FG is now strong in all parts of the country, Labour is relying on Dublin to make up for its relative weakness outside the Pale.

Most party strategists privately estimate that FG is on course to win around 70 seats in the next Dail. A final swing in Dublin could push that figure up by five or six, which might allow it to form a single-party government with the aid of a few right-wing independents.

Its Achilles' heel, as always, is Enda Kenny -- and while it may not be politically correct to say so, there's a certain type of Dublin mentality that recoils at the thought of a "culchie Taoiseach".

In old Dublin slang, the most tactful way to announce someone's death is, "They've gone for their tea". For Fianna Fail, it looks as if it's almost teatime.

At a pathetic 10pc, Micheal Martin's party will need transfers to win a single seat in every constituency -- and since the FF brand is now completely toxic, that means even leadership candidates such as Mary Hanafin and Brian Lenihan are in severe danger.

Sinn Fein, however, may be the most disappointed of all by this poll result. Despite its intensive campaigning in the inner city, it is stuck on 11pc and largely failing to win over the republican vote from FF. Gerry Adams' high dissatisfaction rating (56pc) indicates that he made a mistake by coming south, particularly as most voters still think of SF as essentially a Northern Ireland party.

With five of the Green Party's six TDs based in Dublin, its 3pc will have to be spectacularly well distributed to give them any seats at all.

Securing a directly elected Dublin mayor might have gained John Gormley's party some kudos, but of course that was just part of its long list of failures. Meanwhile, the high support for Independents (16pc) suggests that the "plague on all your houses" mood will throw a few wild cards into the mix.

The bottom line is that this election now has only two possible outcomes. When the Dail resumes on March 9, it will either form a single-party FG government or an FG/Labour coalition. Dublin can swing it either way -- and this poll confirms that the capital's voters are determined to keep Kenny and Gilmore sweating to the very end.

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