Sinn Féin will be carrying out a post mortem on the party’s support in Galway West after failing to win a seat, despite an exceptionally strong first preference vote.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh believes that locally, voters “shied away” from giving the party their first preference and transfers because Sinn Féin became mired in controversy in the fortnight before the General Election.
Despite this, he polled 5,755 first preference votes – up more than 50% on his 3,808 polled in the 2011 election.
He told the Connacht Tribune: “There is certainly a sense that ‘Slab’ Murphy, the Special Criminal Court and some economic stuff as well saw us drop 3% to 4% nationally in the last two weeks, and this affected the transfers we were getting, but I was also in the mix with strong competition from Ó Cuív, Kyne and Catherine Connolly.
“There was a concerted effort by the national media to damage Sinn Féin, and I think it shied them (voters) from giving us a vote,” said Senator Ó Clochartaigh.
He said the party has not yet regrouped to study the Galway West figures, but will be doing a thorough analysis – particularly of the tallies – in the coming weeks.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said he does not feel he should have had a running mate in the city to bolster support.
“We’ll do a thorough analysis of it, but I don’t think it was a crucial factor, because I got transfers from the city and rural areas, including decent transfers from Mike Cubbard (+400) and Niall ÓTuathail (+622), while Seán Kyne was the one not really getting any transfers,” he said.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh made it to the final count with a total of 8,077 votes, up more than 72% on his final vote in 2011, when he was eliminated in the Count 9 (of 13) with 4,683.
He said he hopes to be on the Sinn Féin ticket for the next General Election, and will also be putting his name forward for the Seanad election later this year.
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.