Polls suggest little to seperate Fine Gael and Fianna Fail

By Maurice Garvey

A FIRST General Election to be held on a Saturday for more than a century (the last one was 1918) - the 2020 GE on Saturday February 8, certainly exudes the notion that change is in the air.

The powers that be contemplated a February 14 election date, but the prospect of the obvious media ‘Valentines Day Massacre’ headlines, has been carefully avoided. Also, the sooner the election is held, the less possibility of further controversy.

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Dail Eireann

Fine Gael’s election slogan ‘a future to look forward to’ is optimistic, but the party have been in power for nine years, and as history has shown, the sense now is that it is time for someone else to take up the baton.

However, polls suggest there is little to separate Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, as Leo and co slug it out with Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil for the bulk of the seats.

With Brexit concluded and the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive restored, residents in the Republic are keen to see an end to the confidence and supply ‘phoney war’ between FG/FF.

The make up of the next government could see a rainbow coalition, with the slight bookies favourite a FF/Social Democrats/Labour/Green, followed by a FG/Lab/SD/Green.

In local constituencies, change has been brewing, but some of the core issues remain the same – namely housing, health, crime and an increasing population.

Dublin South West (Tallaght/Firhouse/Rathfarnham/Templeogue) is a five seater, so expect to see a shake up here.

The sitting TD’s are John Lahart (FF), Paul Murphy (Rise), Sean Crowe (SF), Colm Brophy (FG) and Katherine Zappone (Ind).

Last September, Murphy left Solidarity, formerly known as the Anti-Austerity Alliance, to form RISE (Radical Internationalist Socialist Environmentalist). With all this chopping and changing and no water charges to rally around this time, Murphy will struggle to retain his seat.

Katherine Zappone also faces an uphill battle, following a challenging time as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

FF are running three candidates in South West, with Lahart joined by former TD, Cllr Charlie O’Connor and Cllr Deirdre Donovan, while FG have Brophy and Ellen O’Malley Dunlop on the ticket.

The recent Dublin Mid West by-election saw Mark Ward (SF) win the seat, left vacant by Frances Fitzgerald’s election to the European Parliament last May.

It represents the first time SF have two of the four seats in Mid-West (Lucan/Clondalkin, Palmerstown).

Based on the back of that by-election result and the ground work of TD’s Ward and 2016 poll topper Eoin Ó Broin, the party are running the two candidates in GE 2020, and don’t feel split votes will affect either one.

The by-election was a major blow for FG and Cllr Emer Higgins, but she will run again with party colleague and current South Dublin County Mayor Cllr Vicki Casserly.

Sitting Mid-West Fianna Fáil TD John Curran is confident of retaining his seat, and will be joined by Catriona McLean.

The local election and by-election results in 2019 have been disappointing for People Before Profit and Neilstown’s first ever TD Gino Kenny is a little vulnerable ahead of this election.

Over in the four seat Dublin South Central (Ballyfermot-Inchicore), one TD could fall from the current incumbents Aengus O’Snodaigh (SF), Joan Collins (I4C), Catherine Byrne (FG) and Brid Smith (PBP).

The biggest threat could be Senator Catherine Ardagh (FF), who missed out on a seat in GE 2016 to Brid Smith by a mere 35 votes. Surprisingly, Ardagh polled extremely well in places like Cherry Orchard and will be hoping to make a similar impact this time around.

A full list of candidates will appear in The Echo ahead of GE 2020.

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