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Pressure on FF's hopeful future leader O’Callaghan to deliver decent vote in Dublin Bay South

Questions could be asked as to whether O’Callaghan is the right man for the job if the party performs poorly.

Traditionally, Dublin Bay South has been a very weak constituency for Fianna Fáil so realistically the party will just be looking for a credible performance.
Traditionally, Dublin Bay South has been a very weak constituency for Fianna Fáil so realistically the party will just be looking for a credible performance.
Image: PA

IT’S ‘IRELAND’S MOST affluent constituency’ and a Fine Gael heartland, but Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan will have a lot riding on the Dublin Bay South by-election too.

The TD, considered one of the leading contenders to succeed Taoiseach Micheál Martin as Fianna Fáil leader in the years to come, is the director of elections for the by-election. 

Dublin Bay South is his own constituency, and the party has two potential candidates – councillors Deirdre Conroy and Claire O’Connor. 

Pressure will be on O’Callaghan to deliver a decent Fianna Fáil vote, though the party wouldn’t be optimistic that it can take the seat.

With the party’s polling numbers hovering around around 13% (RedC / Business Post), this by-election will also be a big litmus test for the performance of the leading government party, as well as Fine Gael and the Greens, for that matter.

While a poor performance could be seen as bad news for Taoiseach Micheál Martin it could also be damaging for the hopeful future party leader.

If Fianna Fáil shows dismal results, questions could be asked within the party if he is the right man for the job after Martin leaves the helm.

While sitting governments generally struggle in by-elections, Fine Gael may be confident in its heartland that it would retain the seat.

While pressure could be on O’Callaghan, it doesn’t compare to the expectations on Leo Varadkar to retain the seat in the constituency.

While some assumed that former TD Kate O’Connell would be the obvious choice to carry the party’s banner, her candidacy has now been ruled out with James Geoghegan hoovering up the nominations of all 12 branches of the constituency and effectively locking O’Connell out.

In the General Election last year, Eoghan Murphy, whose departure from politics has sparked the contest, and O’Connell had plenty of votes combined to take a seat on the first count if there was just one candidate, with O’Connell only missing out on a seat by a few hundred votes.

But Fine Gael’s in-house woes could only benefit their rivals in the contest.

Fine Gael turning its back on O’Connell was music to O’Callaghan’s ears earlier this month when he heard the news that she would not be the Fine Gael candidate. 

He could hardly contain his delight on the airwaves when speaking to Claire Byrne on her radio programme.

While complementing O’Connell, and stating that on a personal level he was disappointed that O’Connell would not be running, he said Fine Gael had done his party candidates a great favour by not putting the former TD forward for election.

O’Callaghan said he was “‘very pleased we won’t be facing such a popular and competitive candidate in the by-election”, and adding that Fianna Fáil will put in a very “vigorous and strong” campaign.

Traditionally, Dublin Bay South has been a very weak constituency for Fianna Fáil so realistically the party will just be looking for a credible performance.

Looking back at General Election 2020, Fianna Fáil only achieved over 13.8% of the first preference votes, fourth behind Fine Gael, the Green Party and Sinn Féin, respectively.

If O’Callaghan can’t keep up that percentage, it could spell trouble.

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Housing was the dominant issue in the election last February, and remains high on the political agenda today, with Fianna Fáilers stating that it is the make or break issue for the party.

While it will no doubt feature, issues for this by-election could be more local.

While the cost of rent and housing will be debated, the proposed cycle lane in Sandymount will also be a hot topic.

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