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These are the battles to watch on count day

Battle lines drawn.

IT’S ALL OVER bar the counting.

Luckily for us, the counting in Ireland’s elections is the best bit.

While the tallymen will have their forms and pencils at the ready tomorrow, these are the races we think will be the most interesting.

Dublin West: Ladies of the left go head to head

murph1 Paul Murphy on the doorsteps in Jobstown earlier this month Source: Daragh Brophy

The Tánaiste isn’t done yet.

However, a lot needs to go right for her to avoid becoming just the second person ever to lose an election while holding the office, with three seats looking locked up: Leo Varadkar (FG), Paul Donnelly (SF) and Jack Chambers (FF).

First, she needs to hold a lot of her vote. She got around 9,600 first preferences in 2011. In the by-election which saw her returned to the Dáil, Coppinger got 5,900.

Presuming Coppinger takes more first preferences this time, Burton needs to be within 1,500 votes to stand a chance.

She then needs the Fine Gael vote to carry Leo Varadkar over the quota and hope that his voters transfer well to her. She also has to hope that the other Fine Gael candidate, Catherine Noone, has a stronger than expected day and transfers to her en masse.

Another factor will be Paul Donnelly’s performance. If he performs well in the working-class parts of the constituency which leaned Coppinger last time, he could cannibalise the AAA vote and keep Burton close.

Coppinger’s ground game has been strong, though, and the retirement of Joe Higgins gives her a huge base to get votes from.

- Paul Hosford

Dublin Central: Eight into two doesn’t go

096Politicians Voting in General Election 90409955 Source: Sasko Lazarov

Dublin Central is one of the smallest constituencies in the country, and one of the most competitive – there’s 13 candidates going for just three spots after the seat-count dropped from four at the 2011 election.

Until recently the odds would have had you believe Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and outgoing Fine Gael transport minister Paschal Donohoe were dead certs. McDonald is still a shoo-in, that’s pretty certain, but Donohoe’s odds seem to have slipped in recent days – he’s 2/7 now, still odds-on, but he was unbackable a week ago.

After these two you have a whole slew of strong, viable candidates – incumbent independent Maureen O’Sullivan, independent Christy Burke, the Social Democrats’ councillor Gary Gannon, independent Cieran Perry, Labour’s Joe Costello, Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick who was infamously snubbed in the voting preferences by Bertie Ahern in 2007. Her family name (her father was a TD) still holds a deal of affection in the area.

Realistically you have seven or eight candidates going for two seats, and no-one really knows who’s winning the race. Tomorrow’s count should be especially interesting, and doubly so if Donohoe falls on his sword.

- Cianan Brennan

Limerick City: Coalition clash

photojoiner (1)

The last of four seats is likely to be a battle between Labour’s Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Fine Gael backbencher Kieran O’Donnell, who’ll be hoping that transfers from Michael Noonan will secure his re-election. O’Sullivan will hope her status as a minister will aid her bid to hold her seat.

She needs a strong first preference vote to see off O’Donnell, with Noonan one of the most personally popular politicians in the country and sure to transfer to his running mate.

- Paul Hosford

Dublin North-West: Labour’s love lost?

01 Roisin Shortall 90409940 Roisín Shortall - hoping for a purple reign. Source:

Dublin North West is likely to be a bellwether for how voters feel about Labour.

Last time around, the constituency became the first in Ireland to not elect any TDs from either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael: instead, it returned two Labour TDs (Róisín Shortall, who is now with the Social Democrats, and John Lyons) and one Sinn Féin TD (Dessie Ellis).

Shortall and Ellis are both seen as shoo-ins this time around, but the final seat will be a four-way battle between John Lyons, Sinn Féin’s second candidate Cathleen Carney Boud, Fine Gael’s Noel Rock and Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe.

Paddy Power has Noel Rock edging out Lyons for the third seat, but it’s a tough call: Sinn Féin’s vote management coupled with Dessie Ellis’s transfers will be a big boost for Carney Boud, while Lyons will benefit from a strong Labour organisation in the constituency and his work as a TD.

In the end, it’s likely to come down to just how much voters want to punish Labour on polling day.

- Christine Bohan

Tipperary: Will Kelly sink in Irish Water?

Social Housing Strategy launch - Dublin Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

A few weeks ago, Alan Kelly was a shoo-in to keep his seat.

Now, he faces a battle for the fifth seat. With hugely popular independents in Michael Lowry and Mattie McGrath as well as a strong Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil vote, there will be great interest in how the Enviroment Minister fares.

If Labour prove to be as weak on transfers as expected, Kelly’s personal vote in the Nenagh area will have to be massive. If he does succeed, it will likely be at the expense of his coalition partner Noel Coonan.

- Paul Hosford 

Dublin Bay North: The Battle of Clontarf

PastedImage-24856 The rising tide in Clontarf. Who will it lift? Source:

With a ballot paper the length of your arm, voters in the newly expanded Dublin Bay North had a lot of decisions to make today.

Will they decide to return the two government TDs running? And have they forgiven Fianna Fáil enough to exclude them for just one election cycle?

Richard Bruton is a safe seat for Fine Gael who have two other candidates running. On a good day for the party they may get one of the others but it’s probably more unlikely than likely.

Not least because Aodhán Ó Ríordáin will also be drawing on pro-government voters and a traditionally strong Labour vote in the constituency. Even on a bad day for Labour, the minister might well buck the national trend but there a lot of alternative left-wing options that could hurt him.

Despite performing well locally, Sinn Féin have found it difficult to make a general election breakthrough in the area. They will however be confident of one of their two runners taking a seat this time round. Not doing so would be a bad result for the party.

Fianna Fáil will also be confident of taking a seat with Seán Haughey best placed to it in a constituency that includes his father’s family home.

One of the interesting questions is whether the two sitting independents can make it. Finian McGrath and Tommy Broughan are from opposite ends of the newly combined area and electing both could be a stretch.

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- Rónán Duffy 

Cork South-Central: The bigger they are…

00099972 Source:

The names on this ballot list show one thing: at least one big name is missing out. Reduced from a five seater to a four-seater, at least one sitting TD will bite the dust.

Micheál Martin will keep his seat and his transfers should shore up any problems running-mate Michael McGrath has.

Simon Coveney will also keep his seat, but will his transfers pull Jerry Buttimer over the line? Or will Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh O Laoghaire get pull out a win?

Or will Labour’s Ciaran Lynch, the chair of the banking inquiry, do enough to retain? This constituency will say a lot about the respective days of Labour and Sinn Féin.

Sligo-Leitrim: 18 candidates running for four seats

Perry Source:

Sligo-Leitrim is shaping up to be an interesting constituency – not least because of the John Perry court case last year.

The former junior minister was added to the Fine Gael ticket in December after taking court action against his party. TD Tony McLoughlin and councillor Gerry Reynolds were chosen at the selection convention in October. Perry had argued that there were “serious and substantial” irregularities at the convention.

As a result, the Fine Gael vote will be diluted – meaning the party might only take one seat. If this turns out to be the case, outgoing TD Tony McLoughlin is the favourite. It would be a very interesting turn of events if Perry was also re-elected.

Looking at other parties, Senator Marc MacSharry has a high profile in the area and is likely to take a seat for Fianna Fáil, ahead of Eamon Scanlon. Speaking of senators, Susan O’Keeffe is hoping to secure a seat for Labour. She polled well in the last general election but will face a real struggle now the party’s popularity has dipped.

Councillor Martin Kenny is the favourite to take a seat for Sinn Féin, while Declan Bree is likely to come out on top in terms of independents.

The most likely scenario is that McLoughlin, MacSharry and Kenny will take seats, leaving Perry, Reynolds, Bree, O’Keeffe and Scanlon the main names in contention for the fourth seat.

With 18 candidates running, it’s all to play for.

- Órla Ryan

Dublin South-West: Will two become none for Labour? 

The constituency was the location of one of the main flashpoints of the water protests at the end of 2014, in Jobstown - and as the nation votes there’s likely to be further trouble in store for Labour in Dublin South-West.

The party won two seats in 2011, but Éamonn Maloney’s since turned independent and Pat Rabbitte’s retiring – so Joan Burton’s party is a long shot for even the final seat this time around.

Historically it’s one of the most volatile constituencies in the country – and the addition of a large swathe of voters from the more middle-class areas of Rathfarnham and Knocklyon means the area’s an even tougher call than usual this time around.
The AAA's Paul Murphy is likely to do well, as is Seán Crowe of Fine Gael. Of the three Fine Gael candidates, councillor Colm Brophy is expected to clinch the third of the five available seats. Fianna Fáil had two seats in the old DSW constituency up till 2011 - and the view locally is that their candidate John Lahart will be the fourth Dáil representative to be elected in the area.

Labour's votes in the constituency will be split all over the place - with some going to the party's two candidates, Mick Duff and Pamela Kearns; some to Maloney, who's running again as an independent; and others to Senator Katherine Zappone, who got a profile boost with last year's same-sex marriage vote.

On a very good day for Murphy's organisation his running mate Sandra Fay could take the fifth seat - but the smart money appears to be on SF's Councillor Sarah Holland to clinch it.

Read all of our Election 2016 coverage here

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