City-man Niall Ó Tuathail munches on a bag of dried Dillisk in the front passenger seat of a Social Democrats’ branded white van.
Seaweed is his snack of choice and it supports industry on Inis Meáin, he says. “It’s addictive,” he smiles.
Driver Siobhán Cawley, his Sligo-born-Mayo-raised-Salthill-resident general election campaign manager, heads towards Cartúr Mór estate off Clybaun Road.
Ó Tuathail, from Dangan Heights and living in Shantalla, headed the Yes Equality in Galway West that successfully campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote in the gay marriage referendum.
That’s how Siobhán – “the real boss” – knows him. “It changed my life,” she says.
Like her, about a third of his canvassers are Yes Equality people; a third are interested in the fledgling party’s policies; and the rest are personal and family friends.
It’s Thursday evening, mid-campaign, but the local Social Democrats’ team has been out banging on doors since September. They’ve knocked on about 14,000 doors so far, he says, as they spread the word about the ‘purple revolution’.
En route from town to Knocknacarra, Ó Tuathail is upbeat about taking a seat. He understands the cynics and why “the press don’t give me a chance”.
But he was campaign manager for Stephen Donnelly, when he was elected as an independent TD in Wicklow in 2011. And he’s using the same complex arithmetic from that campaign to strengthen his argument.
Apparently, for every 5.8 doors they knock on, it translates to one vote. At every door, the canvassers gauge the reaction of the voters, and assess their likelihood to vote for Ó Tuathail based on a scale of one to five. Five is a definite ‘no-no’, and the respondent has indicated straight up they’re voting for another candidate. ‘One’ is a definite yes – that voter is going to give a first preference to Ó Tuathail.
But it gets complicated. Only half of the people who are ranked as ‘one’, will actually go out and vote. Those ranked in ‘two’ are leaning towards him but not definite.
He reckons 70% of those ranked as ‘two’ on the ‘Vote Ó Tuathail Probability Chart’ will actually be his voters, but only 65% of those 70% will actually go out and vote.
Just 10% of those ranked in the ‘three’ category, who are non-committal or haven’t made their minds up, according to this formula, will vote for Ó Tuathail. Those categorised as four and five are right-offs. Confused yet? Good!
He’s easier to comprehend – and believe – when talking passionately about policy. Much of the canvass is spent explaining who the Social Democrats are.
On the doorsteps, Ó Tuathail explains that the six-month-old party has three core pillars: it wants quality public services; openness and transparency in Government; and it’s pro business.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
TALLIES: Half of boxes open in City West
With half of the boxes in Galway City West tallied, the state of play in the six-seater is:
Donal Lyons (Ind) 23%
Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) 14.75%
Niall McNelis (Lab) 11.89%
John Connolly (FF) 9.86%
Pearce Flannery (FG) 9.48%
Peter Keane (FF) 7.3%
John Crowley (Soc Dems) 6.3%
Clodagh Higgins (FG) 5.9%
Salthill and Taylor’s Hill boxes being tallied now
Left and right find middle ground
There is a tired old cliché about people singing from ‘the same hymn sheet’ – but despite their diverse political backgrounds, it could certainly be applied in the case of Galway city’s two new TDs.
Because Fine Gael’s Deputy Hildegarde Naughten and independent TD Catherine Connolly hold common ground when it comes to a lot of issues relating to Galway city.
For example, in the aftermath of the general election they both agreed that University Hospital Galway should be moved to a greenfield site at Merlin Park. They also articulated this view on the first day of the new Dail last week.
And, separately, they were both in favour of the provision of dedicated bus lanes throughout Galway city with the acceptance that there will be no outer bypass for at least another decade. Deputy Connolly believes that the current proposal is simply “a cul-de-sac” and should never have been progressed.
Left-leaning Independent TD Catherine Connolly and right-leaning Fine Gael TD, Hildegarde Naughton, both believe UHG is at saturation point and are committed to the development of a new public hospital at the larger, more accessible site east of the city.
This, along with the promotion of public transport initiatives to help end traffic chaos in the city, is one of the common policy objectives the two new women TDs share.
They are only the second and third women TDs ever in Galway West, following in the footsteps of former Fianna Fáil minister, Máire Geoghegan Quinn.
Fianna Fail attempts to woo Grealish again
Pressure is mounting on Galway West TD Noel Grealish to join Fianna Fail as the party attempts to be part of the next government.
The Fianna Fail organisation in the constituency are now convinced that Grealish may provide the party with the answer to winning a second seat in Galway West. And the organisation are disappointed that veteran TD Eamon O Cuiv has not delivered a second seat in the last two general elections. If Fianna Fail assume power, it is very unlikely that the Cornamona man will have a place at the front bench.
The party organisation in Galway West are now anxious that Grealish becomes part of their fabric and particularly as he is a proven vote-winner.
Grealish is part of an unofficial grouping in the Dail who are currently engaged with the two major parties with a view to forming a minority government.
The fact that the Carnmore man has been a TD since 2002, it is likely that he could be part of the front bench in the next government if he agrees to become part of the support that Fianna Fail require.
It was revealed last week that he had been approached by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to join up but he was not to be drawn on the issue.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.