Fine Gael candidates not sitting comfortably as rivals eye their seats

Latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll suggests Taoiseach’s party could suffer casualties

 Catherine Byrne, Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy: her seat is seen as the most vulnerable.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Catherine Byrne, Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy: her seat is seen as the most vulnerable. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The results of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll, if reflected on polling day this Saturday, would mean significant seat losses for Fine Gael.

The poll recorded Sinn Féin as the largest party on 25 per cent, followed by Fianna Fáil on 23 per cent and Fine Gael on 20 per cent. If Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s party drops to that level, it could lead to a number of high-profile ministerial casualties.

Regina Doherty, Meath East
The Minister for Social Protection, one of her party’s strongest public performers, is in a battle for the final seat in three-seat Meath East, where she and Helen McEntee currently hold two seats for Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne holds the third and will be returned. Doherty beat Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke to the last seat in 2016, but O’Rourke is standing again and could surf the Sinn Féin wave this time out.

Paul Kehoe, Wexford
The prospect of holding two Fine Gael seats in five-seat Wexford – junior ministers Michael D’Arcy and Paul Kehoe are both hoping to hold on – could be damaged by the decision of former Fine Gael byelection candidate Verona Murphy to stand as an independent in the general election.

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Murphy is from Ramsgrange, near Kehoe’s Enniscorthy base, while D’Arcy is based in Gorey in the north of the county. Geography probably places Kehoe under greater pressure than his running mate.

Catherine Byrne, Dublin South Central
The Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy was already seen as under threat since Fianna Fáil’s Catherine Ardagh narrowly lost out at the last election and has worked hard in the constituency since. The Green Party’s Patrick Costello is also eyeing up a seat here. With Fine Gael’s drop in the polls, Byrne’s seat is one of the most vulnerable in the country.

Seán Kyne, Galway West
An Ipsos/MRBI Galway West poll for TG4 showed Kyne’s Fine Gael running mate and outgoing TD Hildegarde Naughton topping the poll, with Kyne coming fifth and hanging in for the final seat. Any further drop in the Fine Gael vote could leave Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s chief whip in trouble.

Shane Ross, Dublin Rathdown
Although not a Fine Gael TD, the Minister for Transport is said to be under pressure locally. Fianna Fáil seems to sniff blood and is pushing local councillor Shay Brennan, son of former Fianna Fáil minister Séamus Brennan, for a Dáil seat. Party sources see the Ross vote in the constituency as soft and believe his seat is there for the taking.

Eoghan Murphy, Dublin Bay South
Fine Gael holds two seats from four in Dublin Bay South with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and prominent party backbencher Kate O’Connell. Green leader Eamon Ryan already holds a seat but any surplus for Ryan on the back of rising support for his party in Dublin could trickle back down to candidates on the left.

The Sinn Féin surge will also put party councillor and former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews in contention. Fine Gael could be facing the loss of one of its two seats here and while Murphy’s ministerial post may see stalwart Fine Gael supporters back him over O’Connell, he is unlikely to be feeling comfortable ahead of polling day.