Dail election 2011 - a constituency guide
Dail election 2011 - a constituency guide

A look at the key constituencies for republicans in the general election.


This five-seat constituency has three sitting Fianna Fáil TDs but is blighted by heavy unemployment and over a hundred ghost estates.

Sitting TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin should be elected home on the first count, building on the secure quota he won last time. The question will be whether he can help the young first-time Dáil candidate Kathryn Reilly claim the keenly contested final seat.

Sinn Féin has a fantastic electoral machine in Monaghan but has shallower roots in the Cavan end of the constituency where Reilly, a graduate, is based.

From Ballyjamesduff, Reilly previously worked as a Dáil Assistant for the outgoing TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan.

Reilly could encourage the deeply conservative Cavan people to finally vote to escape the clutches of the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael pendulum. A second Sinn Fein seat here would be historic.

Cork North-Central

Married with four children, Sinn Fein candidate Jonathan O’Brien topped the poll at the local elections in 2004, gaining over 17% of 1st preferences, and his support has continued to grow since then.

Rumours continue to surface of a rise in Sinn Fein support in this constituency, but this has not been reflected in the polls. There are four seats in the mix here, with Fianna Fail vulnerable.

It would really be the height of Sinn Fein ambitions to see O’Brien take the final seat. Only a national surge with party support vying with that of Fianna Fail will see Sinn Fein make a shock breakthrough here.

Donegal North-East

This is much more likely breakthrough territory for Sinn Fein, and most commentators chalked up one of the three seats in dark green long ago.

Padraig Mac Lochlainn is one of the new generation of Sinn Féin activists who are chomping at the bit to make an impression in the constituency and in Leinster House. He ran close last time, has worked assiduously, and is said to have a chance of topping the poll.

Times have changed in the constituency because in the elections of 1997 and 2002, Donegal North East was entirely Fianna Fáil – two from regular FF and one from Independent Fianna Fáil, first in Harry Blaney and then in his son Niall.

Fianna Fáil’s former candidates, Dr Jim McDaid and Niall Blaney are not running. Dr McDaid – according to the Donegal Democrat – rejected overtures from Fianna Fáil to stand again, while Niall Blaney withdrew late in the day, citing personal family reasons.

It should be down to one FF TD, and Fine Gael is assured of a seat. Niall Blaney’s Dublin-based nephew nephew could upset the apple cart as he hopes to continue the Blaney dynasty, but it should be a well deserved celebration when Mac Lochlainn is finally hoisted on shoulders in Letterkenny.

Donegal South-West

The overwhelming victor in the long-delayed by-election was Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who filled the Dáil seat left vacant by the election of Pat the Cope Gallagher of Fianna Fáil to the European Parliament in June 2009.

Doherty, who initiated the High Court challenge that forced the Government to hold the byelection, hit the ground running as his party’s finance spokesman.

The election of the Glenties-based TD caused a storm and his energy in media has spearheaded a surge in Sinn Fein support.

He will remain a strong influence in the next Dail, and if his by-election surge holds up, could hold Sinn Fein’s safest seat after Caoimhghin O Caolain.

Fine Gael are certain to hold their seat and could have aimed for two in this three-seat constituency, but played it safe.

Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, a Fianna Fail TD for 24 years, could be in trouble here and former Sinn Fein councillor Thomas Pringle from Killybegs, an independent who polled strongly in the by-election, is likely to run her close.

Dublin Central

This is the constituency of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who is retiring. Ahern’s vote management strategy in 2007 also brought in his running mate, Cyprian Brady, despite Brady’s mere 939 first preferences. Given that Ahern polled almost two quotas in 2007, there will be much interest in whether Fianna Fáil can hold a seat at all.

This is a dangerous constituency to predict, and Sinn Fein Vice President Mary Lou McDonald surprised many by falling short last time around.

She has a very strong chance of a seat this time, but no more than that.

Fine Gael, Labour and sitting independent Maureen O’Sullivan look set to take a seat each here, but it will still be a shock if Fianna Fail is edged out by Sinn Fein for the last seat.

The dynamic between McDonald and long-time colleague Christy Burke will be fascinating. Burke, who quit Sinn Fein last year, is given only an outside chance, but could prove crucial to the result. Ironically, McDonald may well need his transfers to get over the line.

Dublin Mid-West

Unlike last time out, Dublin Mid-West is a now more unpredictable and is set to return new faces to the Dail.

Fianna Fail’s sole candidate, former chief whip John Curran, is thought to be safe but won’t be repeating his poll-topping performance.

Labour’s Joanna Tuffy and Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald are also deemed safe bets, leaving the fourth seat between Sinn Fein’s Eoin O’Broin, People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny, Labour’s second candidate Robert Dowds and Fine Gael’s second candidate Derek Keating.

O Broin has put in a strong campaign on the ground with a number of assured media appearances, but it will depend strongly on how the transfers fall. On a good day, O Broin will make a welcome addition to the Dail.

Dublin North-East

Sinn Fein veteran Larry O’Toole spent 24 years working for Gateaux, and served as a union official, only to be famously censored by RTE.

He lost his job after production was shut down in the famous Finglas cake factory in 1990 -- and said he could recognise the frustration of those he saw queuing for dole payments now.

Mr O’Toole is hoping to get a new job as a TD for Dublin North East in the Dail. It is his fifth attempt, having first run in the 1992 general election. He said he wanted to make a breakthrough in particular for “salt of the earth” people who had supported him over the years.

However, part of Edenmore, in the south end of the constituency has been transferred to Dublin North Central.

But he has a strong personal vote and, at nearly 13.5 per cent the last time, he was almost 5 per cent above the party’s national ratings. If he does the same again, he could finally be a winner in this three-seat constituency.

Dublin North-West

A constituency that is easily overlooked, but offers up a seat to the opposition following the retirement of Fianna Fail's Noel Ahern.

Former Minister Pat Carey will probably hold onto his seat on the back of his recent promotion to the FF front bench, but Sinn Fein veteran Dessie Ellis is in with an excellent shout for the third seat here. Labour's Roisin Shortall is sure to retain her seat. It will be down to Ellis, Fine Gael and Labour's second candidate to compete for the last seat here.

This could prove to be the breakthrough day for a genuine man of the people.

Dublin South-Central

Long considered a doubt, Sinn Fein’s sitting deputy and justice spokesman Aengus O’ Snodaigh TD is now considered safe in this five-seat constituency.

However, Sinn Féin’s internal structure was rocked when Cllr Louise Minihan retained her seat in Ballyfermot-Drimnagh under the Sinn Féin banner only to switch to Eirigi days later.

The pressure is on Fianna Fail, which has already conceded one seat following the retirement through illness of Sean Ardagh.

Not to be ignored is the United Left Alliance candidate Joan Collins, a well-known community activist who achieved national fame last week when she told former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern he should be ashamed of himself.

Dublin South-West

For two elections running now, the poll-topper in this constituency has come a cropper in the election that followed. Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes stormed home in 1997, only to lose his seat five years later; the victor on that occasion, Seán Crowe of Sinn Féin, unexpectedly lost his seat in the 2007 election.

Now the question is whether Fianna Fail’s Conor Lenihan, who topped the poll last time, will fall victim to this particular voodoo. Most observers think he will.

In 1992, Dublin South West returned three left-wing TDs for the four seats, the first time this happened in an Irish election. Yet its voters are also highly volatile – for example, they voted heavily against the first Lisbon referendum and heavily for the second one.

Just as Hayes came back after losing his seat, Crowe is on the rebound and Sinn Féin is seen as a good bet for a gain here.

Kerry North/West Limerick

The three outgoing TDs in this redrawn constituency, are Thomas McEllistrim, Fine Gael’s Jimmy Deenihan and Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris.

Deenihan, a poll-topper last time, is considered safe. A TD since 1987, a strong Enda Kenny supporter and member of the front bench, he is destined for ministerial office in the likely Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

The remaining two seats will be a battle between Ferris, Labour’s Arthur Spring and McEllistrim, who appears oblivious to Fianna Fail’s national demise.

Ferris, a strong Dáil performer on issues relating to agriculture and the marine, polled 8,030 first preferences the last time. His solid local base will not easily be undermined but he is facing very tough competition once again. Don’t bet on this one.


If Sinn Fein can win a seat at Fianna Fail’s expense in Laois-Offaly, Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s heartland, that result will reverberate across the system.

Sinn Fein candidate Brian Stanley describes the constituency as “the jewel in Fianna Fail’s crown”.

He knows it won’t be easy to break the stranglehold Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have on the constituency, which has only been intermittently interrupted.

The 53-year-old reckons there’ll be two Fine Gael and two Fianna Fail TDs elected, with the last seat up for grabs. “It would be significant. It has always been three-two,” he says.

It would be a historic gain of a midlands TD for Sinn Fein, but will require further prayer.


A strange election for a strange constituency, this will be the mother of all bellwethers.

Only four seats are really in contention because Seamus Kirk of Fianna Fáil, as outgoing Ceann Comhairle [speaker] of the Dáil, is automatically re-elected.

In early November, there was the announcement by sitting Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan that he would not be going for re-election. This was followed by the dramatic news Gerry Adams, was to be a candidate in his place and would relinquish his seats at Stormont and Westminster.

A few weeks later Fianna Fáil’s Dermot Ahern said he was retiring from politics for health reasons. He resigned his cabinet post on January 19th.

Fine Gael have made a huge effort to secure two seats here, but Adams has been the focus of the campaign, harangued by journalists on everything from the trouble in Libya, the fate of ‘the disappeared’ and the exact amount of child benefit payments.

Adams arouses strng emotions in Dundalk, Ireland’s premier border town, where republicanism flows in the ground water. Nearer Dublin, Drogheda is the county town and could be decisive in swinging the vote.

Sinn Fein took a massive gamble here. It remains to be seen if it will come off, but only a few are still doubting it.

Sligo/North Leitrim

Sinn Féin’s Michael Colreavy, whose base is Manorhamilton, could benefit from anger among Leitrim people that their county has been divided between two constituencies, leaving the possibility open, yet again, of no Leitrim representative in the next Dáil.

Colreavy will be looking to pick up the 4,684 first preferences secured by Sligo-based Sinn Féin candidate Seán MacManus in 2007.

That vote and geography could put him in contention for the third and final seat with others, particularly if the Labour vote is fragmented. A win in Connacht would be confirmation that Sinn Fein has become a national force.

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