Election 2020: Galway West constituency profile
Green Party has real chance of taking a seat while controversial Grealish will retain his
Noel Grealish’s vote is the old Bobby Molloy vote and his seat looks safe. File photograph: Alan Betson
Galway West (five seats)
Current: 1 FF, 2 FG, 2 Ind
Galway West was one of those constituencies where Fianna Fáil got a higher percentage of first preferences than Fine Gael in 2016 but won only one seat, while Fine Gael won two.
Fine Gael candidates Hildegarde Naughton and Seán Kyne were elected, mainly on the back of transfers from the third Fine Gael candidate John O’Mahony and Labour’s Derek Nolan.
The two have high profiles (Kyne is chief whip, Naughton is chair of the climate change committee) but one of the seats looks vulnerable.
On the face of it, this might be an opportunity for Fianna Fáil. It had good local elections and re-established a strong presence on Galway City Council. Its second candidate Ollie Crowe is an experienced councillor in the city. Its problem is there will be an imbalance between the votes of Éamon Ó Cuív, the regular poll-topper, and the party’s second candidate.
In 2016, it was Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who came in sixth. But in an internal row, he left the party. Sinn Féin had meltdown in the city in the May 2019 elections, where it lost all three council seats. Its candidate is former councillor Mairéad Farrell, but there’s a sense the party has lost momentum.
So who benefits? It’s always hard to assess the stock of the Independent TDs. Catherine Connolly holds the left-of-centre vote once held by Michael D Higgins. It’s hard to see this very solid performer being dislodged.
Noel Grealish has been blowing away on the dog whistle about immigrants. The Oughterard asylum centre row saw ugly anti-immigrant sentiments coming out of the north Connemara town amid crocodile tears about concern for refugees. Grealish’s vote is the old Bobby Molloy vote and the Independent councillors who once supported the late Molloy all did very well in the elections. So he looks safe.
If there is a threat to Fine Gael, it will come from Pauline O’Reilly of the Greens or Niall Ó Tuathail of the Social Democrats. Niall McNelis of Labour is a good candidate but Labour has not fully recovered. The Greens had a good local election in Galway and O’Reilly has been active and visible. She has a real chance of taking a seat. Ó Tuathail did well in 2016 but was it a mistake for him to ignore standing in the local elections?
Gridlock in Galway city, employment in rural areas, broadband, public transport and tourism are the big issues.
Prediction: FF 1, FG 1, Ind 2, GP 1
Candidates include: Hildegarde Naughton (FG), Seán Kyne (FG), Éamon Ó Cuív (FF), Ollie Crowe (FF), Mairéad Farrell (SF), Catherine Connolly (Ind), Noel Grealish (Ind), Pauline O’Reilly (GP), Niall Ó Tuathail (Soc Dems), Niall McNelis (Lab), Conor Burke (Solidarity), Joe Loughnane (PBP), Cormac Ó Corcorain (Aontu), Mike Cubbard (Ind), Daragh O'Flaherty (Ind).