6 June 1997 Edition
Vote Sinn Féin for real change
Once more the polls are set to open and once more Sinn Féin is set to make significant gains. In the third election in Ireland in five weeks, the voters of the 26 Counties will continue to build Sinn Féin's momentum towards a new Ireland. In all 14 constituencies in which Sinn Féin candidates are standing reports indicate an increased share of the vote.
More and more people are recognising that a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for a new type of politics in Ireland. Sinn Féin is the radical choice. It is the only party which works with communities, within communities, offering people leadership and true representation.
On Friday 6 June vote Sinn Féin for real change.
Leinster House 1997
NEIL FORDE profiles both the marginal constituencies and the Sinn Féin challenge in tomorrow's Leinster House election.
``Now you've got a good Government- Keep it'' Does this catchphrase sound familiar? Well 20 years ago it was the election slogan cry of then Fine Gael/Labour coalition who were fighting the 1977 Leinster House elections on a common platform. Then the electorate treated the coalition partners mercilessly with Fianna Fáil romping home after winning 50% of the total vote and a 20 seat majority.
In 1989 a similar fate befell the PDs who went into that June's elections with a tentative pre-vote pact with Fine Gael. The PDs vote share dropped from 11.8% of the total poll to 5.5% and their shares of Leinster House seats fell from 14 to 6.
Now once again in 1997 the Leinster House parties have brought not one but two pre-election pacts before the voters obviously hoping that there is safety in numbers and the voters' distaste for electoral pacts has dissipated. It is very much an unknown environment.
What is known is that every election since then has seen a volatile electorate floating erratically between the various options offered by the Leinster House parties whose own inter party divisions have blurred and eroded. This blurring culminated in 1994 when the right-wing Fine Gael spurned the chances of coalition government with the like minded Progressive Democrats in favour of co-habitation with the supposedly socialist Democratic Left.
The crucial questions of this election for republicans are:
Can Sinn Féin win a Leinster House seat?
How likely are the chances of the FF and PD winning an extra six seats needed to gain a majority in the House?
How big will the collapse in the Labour vote be?
Will the Greens add to their seat total?
Democratic Left won two by-elections before they entered the 1994 Rainbow coalition. How will the electorate react to Proinsias DeRossa's new brand of conservative pragmatism?
How will the 100,000 plus new voters jump in the election?
Cavan Monaghan (5 seats)
Speculation in the media about an improved Sinn Féin performance has dominated the analysis of this crucial five seater constituency. Caoimhghín O Caoláin won 7.6% of the vote here in 1992, polling 4,197 first preferences. He survived until the fifth count having failed to garner preferences early on to sustain a challenge for the last seat.
Since the `92 election support for the party in the constituency has grown. This was demonstrated particularly in the 1994 local elections when Sinn Féin doubled its representation on Monaghan's urban councils and town commissions. Eight candidates stood and eight were elected, topping the poll in the three urban council areas.
It is notable that the only groupings to break the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael control of this constituency were Clann Na Poblachta and Sinn Féin/H-Block candidates.
On the last two occasions this seat was won by a republican candidate (1954 and 1981) the party secured over 14% of first preferences and an increase in transfers. For republican vote watchers in this constituency next Saturday these are the two crucial factors. If, as seems likely, the Sinn Féin gets more than 10% of the vote share Caoimhghín O Caoláin will definitely be in the dust up for the final seat.
Clare (4 seats)
The question here is who will get the seat vacated by Labour TD Moosajee Bhamjee who was the surprise victor in this four seater constituency in 1992. Fianna Fáil have targeted this constituency for three seats. In 1992 they held almost 52% of the vote share, while the PDs polled almost 7%, even though only 27% of their transfers went to FF compared to 42% to Fine Gael
Cork East (4 seats)
The electoral fortunes of both Sinn Féin and Kieran Mc Carthy in Cork have improved considerably since the 1992 election. McCarthy is now a councillor for Cobh UDC while Martin Hallinan was also elected to Youghal UDC in the 1994 elections. McCarthy is the Sinn Féin candidate again in 1997.
Cork North Central (4 seats)
Don O'Leary doubled the Sinn Féin vote in this constituency in the 1994 by election. The party won 3.5% of the vote and can go a step further this time out. On the wider political front this constituency is going to be one of the battlegrounds. Democratic Left won a surprise by-election victory here in 1994. In 1992 Fianna Fáil lost their second seat in the constituency to Fine Gael and are all out to secure two seats this time around.
Donegal North East (3 seats)
Sinn Féin vice president Pat Doherty gets his second run at the polls this year and his third in two years. Fianna Fáil won a second seat in this constituency following the death last year of Neil Blaney the oldest denizen of Leinster House. Doherty's performance in the 1996 by-election was a substantial increase on 1992. In `96 he won 2,338 votes and 7.63% of the poll. The questions this time around are can Doherty now reach Eddie Fullerton's 8.5% vote share in 1987 and can Fianna Fáil hold onto the second seat.
Dublin Central (4 seats)
This is another nightmare constituency for the Leinster House parties because Dublin Central has evolved into one of the most unpredictable constituencies in the 26 Counties. The seat shareout in 1992 was one for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour and one independent, Tony Gregory.
Sinn Féin's Christy Burke won 3.74% of the poll in 1992 and the vote is set to advance again in 1997 driven by the party's unparalleled activism on the ground on a range of social and economic issues.
For Fianna Fáil this is a difficult constituency. In 1992 the party won 39% of the total poll but came away with only one seat, that of the now Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern. Ahern must convert his popularity into two seats for the party.
Fine Gael will be struggling to hold onto their seat here. Sitting TD Jim Mitchell had planned to retire from Leinster House this time around but had to be persuaded to run again for the party to have even a slim chance of holding the seat. The price of his support is rumoured to be a seat at the cabinet table if he and Fine Gael are returned to office.
Dublin North (4 seats)
For those who want to measure whether or not there will be a surge to the Green party in 1997 this is a key constituency. The party's sitting TD Trevor Sargent won a seat here in 1992 even though his initial vote share was only 8.77% of the total constituency poll. By the last count Sargent had more than doubled his vote with transfers.
Dublin North East (4 seats)
Larry O'Toole is the Sinn Féin candidate in another hotly contested constituency. Sinn Féin almost reached 3% of the poll here in 1992 and if they can even repeat the performance of the party in other by elections since 1992 O'Toole's vote could double.
This is another target constituency, not for Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael who had no seats here in 1992. The Labour Party won two seats in 1992 in a constituency where they had none in 1989 and will be lucky to hold onto even one this time around.
Dublin South (5 seats)
Fianna Fáil, the PDs and Fine Gael all have their eyes on this constituency which has a huge mass of uncommitted voters. In 1987 the PDs won a seat which was lost to the Greens in 1989 who in turn lost their seat in 1992. The feature of that election was the surge to Labour who won 28.94% of the vote here in 1992. The question is where will the floaters go this time.
Dublin South Central (4 seats)
Martina Kenna is Sinn Féin's only female candidate in Dublin and in the South Central constituency she has upped the vote in each of her last outings. Democratic Left won a by-election here in June 1994. Sinn Féin's vote increased then to 2.9% of the poll and can grow further this time around.
Fianna Fáil will make huge efforts to secure a second seat in this constituency where historically they have had an endless amount of disasters. It wasn't until former Independent Labour and Ceann Comhairle John O'Connell joined the FF ticket that they secured a second seat here.
Dublin South West (5 seats)
Five seats are up for grabs in a constituency where Seán Crowe is the Sinn Féin candidate and the party again hope to make advances on their 1992 showing. Dublin South West elected two Labour TDs in 1992 along with the PD's Mary Harney, Pat Rabbitte of Democratic Left and Fianna Fail's Chris Flood. With Labour's Mervyn Taylor retiring they are not even assured of holding one of their two seats. This has created a scenario where both the PDs and Fianna Fáil are targeting the constituency for an extra seat.
Dublin West (4 seats)
John McCann doubled his vote here in the 1996 by-election where he won 5.54% of the total vote. Fianna Fáil will be pulling out all the stops to keep the second seat they won in 1996 with the strongest challenge likely from the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins whose campaigning on the water charges issues has won him the support of many of the floaters in the constituency.
Galway West (5 seats)
This constituency is definitely one to watch. The current seat share is two Fianna Fáil, and one for Labour, Fine Gael and the PDs. With the retirement of Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Fianna Fáil will make every effort to not only hold the two seats but make a major play for a third seat.
Mike Egan is the Sinn Féin candidate here and his campaign is setting the groundwork to challenge for a corporation seat in Galway City next year.
Kerry North (3 seats)
Martin Ferris's campaign for Sinn Féin has in recent weeks come under the media eye with a strange collection of punters predicting an increased vote for Sinn Féin in the constituency. A Kerryman newspaper poll put support for Ferris at 11%. Whatever about Ferris's profile he doesn't have the vote buying power of Labour's Dick Spring who has left no grant or subsidy unapplied for when it comes to Kerry North over the past five years. He probably still has night sweats thinking about his four vote victory in the 1987 election.
Louth (4 seats)
Sinn Féin won nearly 4% of the vote here in 1992 and the party's two candidates Maeve Healy and Owen Hanratty are looking to improve on this in 1997. In 1981 H-Block prisoner Paddy Agnew won the seat. Media interest will centre on whether or not Brendan McGahon will be returned as the Fine Gael TD. He had to be added to the Fine Gael ticket after he failed to get nominated as a candidate by his local party organisation.
Meath (5 seats)
John Bruton faces a similar dilemma in this constituency as Bertie Ahern. As a party leader he is unable to bring in a second TD. The salt in the wound is that this is a constituency where Fianna Fáil won three of the five seats. Labour were the surprise winners of a seat in Meath last time out and look jittery this time
Joe Reilly is the Sinn Féin candidate. Since 1992 he has been elected onto Navan UDC and should make gains for the party this time out.
Sligo Leitrim (4 seats)
Two Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael and one Labour was the result here in 1992. Seán Mac Manus is the Sinn Féin candidate. He won just over 3% of the vote in the 1992 election and has since won one of two Sinn Féin seats on Sligo Corporation. The party could increase its vote share this time out. Declan Bree's Labour seat will be under threat as he was elected on the 1992 Labour surge.
Making a prediction for this election is difficult, no amount of polls can accurately gauge the feelings of the 26-County electorate.
There are some certainties though. The first one being that Sinn Féin are set to make significant gains in the constituencies they are contesting. The Labour Party are going to come out of the election as the biggest losers and will be lucky to hold onto even 20 of the 32 seats they won in 1992. Trevor Sargent will not be the only Green in Leinster House in coming weeks.
On the list of likely outcomes, it seems likley that the Fianna Fáil/PD alliance will gains seats but whether they can make an overall majority will need a more significant swing than the polls suggest.
It seems that there will be some serious horse trading in coming weeks with no possibilities or combination ruled out even that of Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition, with Dick Spring stepping down in favour of Ruairi Quinn if he is the agreed new resident at the Aras in the park. You have been warned.