Fine Gael to give extra resources to certain candidates

Strategy will boost parliamentary party in constituencies where support is strong

Michelle Mulherin  TD:    she is seen as facing an uphill struggle in Co Mayo, which is dropping from a five-seater to a four-seater for this election. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Michelle Mulherin TD: she is seen as facing an uphill struggle in Co Mayo, which is dropping from a five-seater to a four-seater for this election. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael is planning to provide extra resources for candidates it believes are capturing public support ahead of the general election. Party strategists are confident Fine Gael can win 62 seats out of an outgoing total of 68 TDs.

While it anticipates losing some seats, the party believes TDs such as Michelle Mulherin in Co Mayo could hold on if the Fine Gael vote nationally is strong. Ms Mulherin is seen as facing an uphill struggle in Co Mayo, which is dropping from a five-seater to a four-seater for this election. There are three outgoing Fine Gael TDs in the constituency: Ms Mulherin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of State for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring.

The party also has high hopes that Maura Hopkins will hold the Fine Gael seat in Roscommon, with outgoing party TD Frank Feighan choosing not to stand again. However, strategists say there is a clutch of constituencies, in Dublin in particular, where the party could win two seats if Fine Gael performs strongly on polling day. The date is widely tipped to be February 25th or 26th.

The candidates in contention to add a second seat in their respective constituencies include Maria Bailey in Dún Laoghaire, Kate O’Connell in Dublin Bay South, Anne Marie Dermody in Dublin South West and Josepha Madigan in Dublin Rathdown, renamed from Dublin South.

Fine Gael now has one seat in each constituency except Dublin South West, where Brian Hayes, the Fine Gael director of elections, was a TD until his election to the European Parliament in 2014.

Another candidate seen as a possible gain is Noel Rock in Dublin North West, where there is currently no Fine Gael TD.

“There would be a strategy from a national level to lift the vote where we are strong,” a party source said. The source added that this would likely mean extra resources and the application of tight vote-management in the lead-up to polling day.

Another constituency likely to see additional resources deployed by Fine Gael is the three seater of Meath East, which has two outgoing party TDs – Regina Doherty and Helen McEntee. Labour’s Dominic Hannigan is hoping to hold his seat but Fianna Fáil candidate Thomas Byrne is seen as a very strong contender to retake the Dáil seat he lost in 2011.

Fine Gael believes both Ms McEntee and Ms Doherty have a good chance of maintaining two seats for the party in the tight three seater.