Prospect of Mansergh retaining seat dwindles as FF support slumps to 10%
CONSTITUENCY PROFILE: TIPPERARY SOUTH: 3 SEATS:MUCH HAS changed in the three-seat Tipperary South constituency since the 2007 election. Back then, against formidable odds, Mattie McGrath and Martin Mansergh won two seats for Fianna Fáil.
Poll topper Tom Hayes won a seat for Fine Gael, while strong contenders, Labour’s Phil Prendergast and Independent Séamus Healy, had to wait to fight another day.
Prendergast went on to win a Seanad seat while Healy, a former TD and now a member of United Left Alliance, applied himself to strengthening his support, apparently with considerable success.
Fianna Fáil’s impressive 2007 performance was narrowly secured, with Mansergh’s margin of victory over Healy a mere 59 votes. McGrath had polled 7,608 first preferences, compared to Mansergh’s 6,110.
This time, Fianna Fáil – with no prospect of winning two seats – chose Mansergh as its sole candidate.
McGrath is running as an Independent, having left Fianna Fáil after voting against the Government on a number of issues in the last Dáil.
Ominously for Fianna Fáil, an Irish Timesopinion poll has shown the party’s vote in the constituency plummeting from 46 per cent to 10 per cent.
The poll also confirmed the local consensus that Hayes and Healy will safely take seats, leaving McGrath and Prendergast fighting it out for the third seat.
Hayes’s running mate is Michael Murphy from Clonmel, who was elected to South Tipperary County Council in 2009.
It is a sign of the times for Fianna Fáil that Mansergh, Minister of State for Finance with a long tradition of service to the party, seems destined to lose out.
He left the Department of Foreign Affairs to work with then party leader Charlie Haughey and served as an adviser to Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern. He was a key player in the peace process.
But politics is an unsentimental business and his years of loyalty to Fianna Fáil are not expected to be enough to return him to the Dáil.
This leaves the imponderable of whether his transfers might help McGrath to win the final seat ahead of Prendergast.
However, with Mansergh likely to secure a dwindling core vote, Fianna Fáil loyalists might be slow to transfer to McGrath, given that he left the party as the electoral tide went out. McGrath, a wily local operator, can never be underestimated, however.
Healy secured 5,707 first preferences compared to Prendergast’s 3,400 in 2007.
She is likely to poll much stronger this time in a constituency which has had a solid Labour base in the past. She could benefit from a Healy surplus if he is elected on the first count.
Sinn Féin is running Mayor of Cashel Michael Browne, while Paul McNally is the Green Party candidate.