Donegal poll finds Sinn Féin may take seat from Independent or Fianna Fáil

Retiring Independents predict election will be difficult for non-aligned candidates

A new poll has found Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn may dislodge Independent TD Thomas Pringle or a Fianna Fáil Deputy to win a second seat for his party in the five-seat Donegal constituency.

It comes as retiring Independents predict the election will be difficult for non-aligned candidates.

The number of Independents running in this election is down on the last general election in 2016, when 159 stood. There are about 115 Independent candidates running across the country in the February 8th election, representing just over a fifth of all contenders.

The poll conducted for TG4 by Ipsos/MRBI found Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty is likely to receive a quota and a half, with 27 per cent of first preference votes.

Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh is in second place at 17 per cent of first preference votes. Mr MacLochlainn, on 12 per cent, could regain the seat he lost in the 2016 general election from Mr Doherty’s surplus.

There remains a possibility Fianna Fáil could win two seats in the five-seater constituency, where the party’s candidates are Charlie McConalogue, on 12 per cent in the poll, and Pat “The Cope” Gallagher, on 10 per cent.

The last seat looks like a battle for transfers between one of the Fianna Fáil candidates and Mr Pringle, on 6 per cent.

Independent Peter Casey got 2 per cent in the poll, and Green candidate Michael White recorded 4 per cent.

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday. A sample of 550 attaches a margin of error of up to plus or minus four percentage points.

Martin Harley of Fine Gael got 3 per cent; Aontú's Mary T Sweeney 3 per cent; Independent John O'Donnell 4 per cent; and Independent Niall McConnell 1 per cent.

It is one of a series of three polls that TG4 is carrying out in the Gaeltacht constituencies of Donegal, Galway West and Kerry.

Left alliance

Meanwhile, a retiring Independent TD has said he would like to see unaligned TDs on the left come together with like-minded parties to form a broad left alliance.

Outgoing Dublin Bay North TD Tommy Broughan said his ambition in politics was always to make the Labour Party capable of being the majority party in a coalition.

Mr Broughan, who lost the Labour Party whip in 2011 after voting against the then government on the bank guarantee, said unaligned TDs could miss the discipline of a political party. “I had a party discipline for so long,” he said. “You miss all of that.”

In the 32nd Dáil, Mr Broughan, first elected as a TD in 1992, was part of a group of Independents which included Mr Pringle, Galway West's Catherine Connolly and Maureen O'Sullivan, who is also standing down as a TD for Dublin Central at this election.

Ms O'Sullivan followed in the tradition of Tony Gregory, who held an Independent seat between February 1982 and his death in 2009.

Mr Broughan said his ambition was always to get Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael out of government, or at least relegate them to the status of junior coalition partners.


Finian McGrath, also stepping down as an Independent for Dublin Bay North, predicted this election will be difficult for those who are not standing for political parties.

“It is going to be very difficult for Independents and particularly new Independents starting off,” said the Minister of State for Disability Issues.

"There is a swing to some of the bigger parties like Sinn Féin and the Greens and a swing back to Fianna Fáil. I do think there will be a group of Independents elected, and I hope some of the group will have the bottle to go into government and don't sit on the fence."