Higgins to gain from addition of fourth seat

 

CONSTITUENCY PROFILE:DUBLIN WEST played host to one of the most absorbing battles of the 2007 general elections with three of the 29th Dáil’s most prominent national figures trying to stave off the challenge from Fine Gael’s young candidate Leo Varadkar.

In 2007, of the three sitting TDs, only Brian Lenihan was considered safe. He easily topped the poll. Varadkar was also a shoo-in. Labour’s Joan Burton survived with the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins losing out by 500 votes.

Many saw that switch – a right- winger ousting a left-winger – as a mark of the wider political shift in 2007, when bigger parties and the right-of-centre prevailed to the detriment of the left-of-centre, smaller parties and Independents.

However, one major change in the interim has turned Dublin West from one of the tightest constituencies in the country to one of the most predictable – it has become a four-seater.

What’s more, to accommodate that, it has taken in River Valley in Swords, an electoral redoubt in the past for Higgins’s Socialist Party colleague Clare Daly.

The consensus among all the parties is that even with the collapse of support for Fianna Fáil in the capital, there is a very high probability the seats will be filled by Burton, Varadkar, Higgins and Lenihan. Besides Higgins regaining his seat, the other big change will be that Lenihan is likely to be the last elected.

In 2007, Fianna Fáil took 37 per cent of the vote. If the support level for the party in wider Dublin (low teens) was to be translated here, Lenihan would not have a chance of getting near the quota of 20 per cent of the overall vote. However, his own profile, his strong base in middle-class Castleknock and the Lenihan tradition in Dublin West, should see him safely home.

Varadkar also has a strong base in Castleknock but he is expected to pick up votes throughout the constituency, as is Burton, who is based in the Blanchardstown end.

The three major parties are fielding second candidates based in the northern part of the constituency. David McGuinness from Corduff is, at 24, Fianna Fáil’s youngest councillor in the State.

In 2009, his was elected in a working-class suburb when the party’s support was plummeting in the capital. Another impressive young councillor, Labour’s Patrick Nulty (27) is also from the Corduff/Mulhuddart area.

Fine Gael’s second candidate Kieran Dennison represents the same electoral area, from Laraghcon to Clonee, on Fingal County Council. Dennison or Nulty might have an outside chance of sneaking in if there is a complete Fianna Fáil collapse, but will more likely be sweepers, like McGuinness, for the more established candidates.

Higgins bounced back from his defeat in 2007 to become an MEP in 2009. He has not neglected his constituency in the meantime, though, and the fireworks from Joan Burton on Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3 are symptomatic of the tensions that have built up between them.

This constituency has been a problem one for Sinn Féin. Its candidate in 2007, Felix Gallagher, resigned his council seat later that year. Its candidate this time around, Paul Donnelly, is unlikely to make the impact of party colleagues in nearby constituencies.

The Greens’ Roderic O’Gorman is running again but will struggle to improve on his total of 1,286 (3.78 per cent) from 2007.