SOME bookies say the smart money is on the two sitting Fine Gael TDs being returned in Cork South West, with Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony regaining the third seat for Fianna Fáil.
That prediction would, in theory, reflect a prediction that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are, at national level, ready to get into bed together – and would also be ‘a first’ for West Cork if a woman were to take a seat in this constituency.
But there is a wise old wizard in West Cork who says: ‘Poppycock! Jim and Noel will be returned for Fine Gael, and so will the sitting Labour TD, Michael McCarthy.’
Apart from the local elections in 2014 when Fine Gael got their numbers badly wrong – and had the temerity to put six candidates on the ticket – Fine Gael has always managed to get value for money for its vote.
In 2007, 36% of the vote returned two general election candidates for Fine Gael and, in 2011, 49% yielded the same result. Even in lean times, the party’s vote management pays dividends.
On February 26th next, the Clonakilty-based Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, is expected to top the poll, and the Beara-based TD, Noel Harrington – who has been ‘gifted’ the highly-populated Kinsale area – is expected to take the second.
Paddy Power Betfair has predicted that Fianna Fail voters will rally to Cllr Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony’s banner considering that she has good party connections, and because they are hungry to re-take the seat lost in 2011 – a first since the foundation of the State.
But with Cllr Alan Coleman – now an independent – seen in some areas as a de facto Fianna Fáil public representative, the vote could be very badly split.
It has been suggested that in terms of the numbers of votes they are likely to garner, Alan Coleman and Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony are ‘Even Stevens.’
Any sign of animosity between them during the campaign only serves to weaken their cause, because even if they divide the vote equally, they are not going to transfer 100%.
So one could cancel out the other.
Much has been said of Cllr Michael Collins, describing him as ‘a real contender,’ but others are saying he has ‘lost momentum’. And with independents at 15% in the Red C polls nationally, and four independents standing in Cork South West, it could be very fractious indeed.
When asked if he believed Labour’s Michael McCarthy was a write-off, as the bookies are predicting, our chosen wizard, so-called, said: ‘I don’t believe so. He is going to do better locally than Labour will do nationally.’
With Labour at 9% nationally, he said Michael McCarthy would need to be on 12% or 13% locally if he is to benefit from transfers. And with a valid poll in Cork South West coming in around the 40,000 mark, that would mean he needs 5,000-plus votes.
Around West Cork, Daly, Harrington and McCarthy regularly attend events together and they – to borrow a phrase – could be described as the real ‘three amigos’. Whilst Michael McCarthy’s face does not appear on the Fine Gael election adverts, they do state ‘continue your third preference for Michael McCarthy TD’ – all of which is very chummy indeed.
The main population centres show Dunmanway at around 4,500 votes; Bantry at around 12,000; Clonakilty at 10,000; with Bandon at 7,500 and Kinsale at 8,500. These roughly rounded figures show just how tight the contest is likely to be in Bandon.
Gillian Powell (Ind) is standing on the flooding platform – which is unquestionably a political hot potato – but that could easily eat into votes destined for Alan Coleman or Sinn Féin’s Cllr Rachel McCarthy.
Even the most earnest candidates – like Fiona O’Leary (Ind) and Johnny O’Mahony (Greens), as well as serial campaigner Theresa Heaney, who is standing for the Catholic Democrats – will find it hard, on this occasion, to get a look-in.