To Hell rather than Connaught
Fianna Fáil’s woes have been compounded by the mess in North-West.
Fine Gael’s major delay in announcing a candidate for Dublin South looked like a dodgy strategy for a long time, leaving the field open to Senator Alex White, Labour’s very plausible candidate.
But as soon as George Lee was unveiled – or unleashed – it all made sense. I know that there’s still a race to be run but there’s a Barack like unstoppability to the nation’s most famous economist.
Fianna Fail need to do that, and do that quickly, in North West. Its problem: There’s no George. There’s not even a second-rate George. They have just three days now to rescue it all and short of recruiting Kiefer Sutherland to save them within 24 hours, they are in a pickle.
What the party needs is the following: Somebody with name recognition through this massive constituency (Connaught, three Ulster counties; Clare in Munster; and parts of Westmeath in Leinster). The person needs substance, either as an experienced politician or an authoritative figure elsewhere. And they need to have the campaigning muscles to make it to Brussels in four weeks flat.
It’s a mess. Seán Ó Neachtain didn’t help matters yesterday by reminding them they needed to pick a candidate fast. He’s the reason for that. So better for him to keep his own counsel.
Éamon Ó Cuív has already ruled himself out of the race, categorically. In spite of untold pressure. So has Noel Treacy. Micheál Kitt is also reluctant.
Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher is willing and could win the seat. But he’s in Donegal, too close to the second candidate, Paschal Mooney, who is in Leitrim. If Pat ‘the Cope’ ran, Fianna Fáil would need to seek a ‘sweeper’ candidate in Galway or Clare, as Fine Gael did last time round with Madeleine Taylor-Quinn.
It’s the stop Declan Ganley campaign. He’s the only Galway candidate as things stand and must have a chance of winning. When I go down to my home place in Galway, I’m told that people aren’t warming to him. But there’s also a big ‘silent’ Catholic vote in that constituency (from which Dana drew votes) that Ganley can tap into. Without a credible Fianna Fail candidate to cover Galway and Mayo, he’s in a very strong position.
And that’s not to discount the challenge of Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of Sinn Féin. Not to be ruled out of the equation under any circumstances. And strangely, the sense I’m getting from people on the ground is that the independent MEP Marian Harkin should be strong enough to retain her seat.
It will be an interesting weekend.