News

The big names facing a battle for their political lives

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
In danger: James Reilly
In danger: James Reilly

POLITICS is a blood sport and it has been five tough years since voters had a chance to swing the axe.

Fianna Fáil and the Greens fell victim to a ballot box massacre in 2011’s election in a ruthless demonstration of people power.

The question now is who are going to be the biggest losers this time around?

The Labour Party has more to fear than anyone and Joan Burton faces becoming the biggest loser of Election 2016. Even if she hangs on to her own seat, she could lose her party leadership if her Dáil colleagues are decimated.

Polls are suggesting Labour will pay for the Government’s mistakes and unpopular decisions.

Newstalk presenter Ivan Yates, who is also a columnist for the Irish Independent and the political expert for Paddy Power, has singled out Labour as the biggest loser in the election.

“It’s a great advantage for a candidate for the word to go out that you are not safe, because tactical voting is then in your favour,” he told the Sunday World.

One of the five TDs in the hunt for a seat in Cork South Central will be disappointed, with just four seats now up for grabs after the reforms.

The prime candidate for the chop is high-profile Labour TD Ciaran Lynch, chairman of the Banking Inquiry committee.

The same constituency has Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, along with Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney and Jerry Buttimer.

The poll topper is likely to be FF’s Michael McGrath, whose party leader will need his help to get over the line.

The contest highlights how even well-known politicians have no guarantee they’ll still be in their seats by the end of next month.

“Conceivably there is a scenario – I’m not predicting this – where Micheál Martin’s seat could be in trouble,” said Yates.

He did predict that either Lynch or Buttimer won’t be returning to the Dail from the election’s ‘Group of Death’.

Yates, who is a former Fine Gael minister, dismissed suggestions that James Reilly could falter. He’s running in the new-look Dublin Fingal area, where TD Clare Daly is expected to win. But Reilly’s unsuccessful stint as Minister for Health may have damaged him enough to allow party colleague Alan Farrell to poll higher in a constituency that has room for only one Fine Gaeler.

Labour’s Brendan Ryan in the same constituency is regarded as having one his party’s few remaining ‘safe seats’.

Any surplus Daly gets is likely to transfer to other left-wing candidates or independents, which could combine to leave one of the two Fine Gaelers looking for a new line of work.

Farrell is known as a hard worker within the constituency and could out-perform Dr Reilly.

Changes in the electoral area mean that Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe will find it hard to get re-elected in Dublin Central. There are four sitting TDs in the constituency, which has been reduced to a three-seater in which Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald will top the poll.

Independent Maureen O’Sullivan is also tipped to take a seat, leaving Donohoe to scrap it out with Labour stalwart Joe Costello.

Another cabinet member whose head is on the electorate’s chopping block is education minister Jan O’Sullivan, who will suffer from the expected backlash against the party.

To make matters worse, she shares the constituency with poll performers Willie O’Dea and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan is expected to take a seat, leaving O’Sullivan fighting it out with Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell.

Another of the Labour party’s high-profile performers who could lose out is Gerald ‘Ged’ Nash.

Running in Louth, where there are five seats up for grabs, he could suffer as Gerry Adams looks to bring in two seats for Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein’s expected strong poll and a poor show by Fine Gael will likely see Ged lose out on transfers.