Current TDs: 1 SF, 1 FF, 1 GP, 1 LAB (FG -1, LAB +1 from by-election)
Projection: 1 SF, 2 FG, 1 GP
Dublin Bay South has been featuring a lot recently, and I suspect may continue to do so. Two things factoring into a reversal of November’s change here – the Greens RPA in Dublin has moved up from 7.1% to 7.9%, while Labour’s has dropped from 7% to 6.5%. Small movements are once again enough to tip the model in what continues to look like an extremely tough to call constituency. Ivana Bacik and Eamon Ryan are both big profile politicians – for better or for ill – and I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility that both of them end up holding their seats ahead of FF and a 2nd FG candidate when all is said and done. But for now, the model sees the advantage moving back to Ryan.
This one has been coming for a while I think, and it did feel like a question of when, rather than if, the model would put Ivana Bacik ahead of Eamon Ryan. And the answer was on the week of the Green Party convention. Oof.
So what changed? Well, since last month, Bacik is up a bit, Ryan is down a bit, but most importantly of all, Jim O’Callaghan (FF) is down a bit – enough to indicate to the model that Bacik will overtake him at some point during the count. And that situation is enough for the model to favour her to also overtake Ryan.
As usual there are caveats – transfers are data-deficient at the best of times, and Ryan does have a projected advantage in FPV. Furthermore, the margins of the probability here are very slim; this is far from settled by any means. But right now the model would rather be in Bacik’s position that Ryan’s, and for what it’s worth, I agree.
A reversion of last month’s changes here, as the model favours Fine Gael to take a second seat here at the expense of Fianna Fáil. This isn’t because of an increase in support for FG – their Dublin support is static, but because of the problems for FF in Dublin in recent polling; they have dropped from 15.5% to 13.8% on the RPA in the region since September.
Still, I expect this to continue to be volatile for a while for reasons I have discussed numerous times before – there are two seats here that should be viewed as very uncertain, and any combination of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Greens and Labour is very plausible.
I also came across some interesting scuttlebutt – there’s rumours of Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar relocating to this constituency for the next election. I don’t believe it until I see something concrete, but if he were to, he’d comfortably take a seat. Whether that would help a second FG candidate by dragging them over the line, or hurt them by gobbling up first preferences that may not transfer, who knows?
This probably shouldn’t be surprising given what we’ve seen here so far this year, and with Fine Gael continuing to slide in Dublin this should now favour Fianna Fáil. That said, there are realistically four candidates – FF, GP, Lab and a second FG one – competing for the final two seats and the probabilities right now are still really close. This is one of the most brutal constituencies in the country, with four big hitting incumbents, and at least one seat that Fine Gael will absolutely win – so on current polling, there will be a high-profile casualty, whatever happens.
There’s still unquantifiable factors that modelling can’t really account for – for example, how much support for Bacik (LAB) holds over from the by-election, how much the general unpopularity of Ryan (GP) will be a factor, and the fact that Fine Gael don’t even seem to have one, let alone two, inspiring candidates in this constituency. Indeed, just how much Ryan and Bacik are going to be competing for the same votes is a huge consideration and could well result in one or the other doing far better than modelling can predict on the day of an election.
So really, one seat for Fine Gael, one seat for Sinn Féin, and then honestly, who knows. It’s also worth noting that with the FG seat melting away here, there are only two constituencies left where the model thinks Fine Gael will win multiple seats – Rathdown, and Dún Laoghaire.
Last month I described Dublin Bay South as “extremely messy and close” and this month has borne that out, with the final seat flipping back from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael, but it’s all very fine margins stuff. Of course, the model can’t factor in stuff like incumbency effects, which, in theory, should favour O’Callaghan (FF), but honestly, who knows?
It’s a shame that after the projections for Dublin Bay North have got a bit more stable, the chaos has just taken a short jaunt south across the bay, and this could well move back and forth while FF and FG remain close to their current levels of support. Suffice to say this isn’t something that could be called with any great confidence.
This is a sign of the problems for Fine Gael – Dublin Bay South will have been among their primary targets for a pick-up even before the by-election cost them a seat there, and they should have been targeting two. I pointed out last month that FF were threatening this, and it’s come to fruition this month. Their numbers continue to decline in Dublin, and with the Greens and Fianna Fáil recovering, they’re going to get squeezed, and only gaining one seat looks a lot more likely than two.
One wrinkle of course is that Ivana Bacik (LAB) remains somewhat unquantifiable. It looks very likely she’ll be a party leader heading into the next election, which could help her. On the otehr hand, it’s difficult to know how much stock to put in the by-election result as a signifier for a GE, especially since she’ll be competing with much, much stronger candidates from the Green Party and Fianna Fáil for middle-class votes (and Fine Gael would also hope for stronger candidates, but honestly, God knows).
But this is the exact kind of scenario the model struggles with, and as much as they might cap her support, she might also cap what Ryan (GP) and O’Callaghan (FF) can achieve. This could be extremely messy and close.
Given that the model changes generally favoured FG, this is an interesting one. Basically, FG do have sufficient raw FPV to win three seats here, but better modelling of how that FPV will be split creates a more realistic outcome – two seats. Three isn’t impossible by any means, but FG will need to improve their already extremely high polling in Dublin by a point or two for that to become more likely.
The beneficiary of this is Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who still has a comfortable enough advantage over FF’s Jim O’Callaghan. Regardless, at least one of those two incumbents is going to lose out if the numbers stay as they are. Given that FF’s struggles in Dublin are pretty much as bad as the Greens’, O’Callaghan will need a significant boost to hold on. Indeed, right now it’s more likely that a third FG candidate overtakes both of them than it is for O’Callaghan to overhaul Ryan.
There’s something counter-intuitive here, that in what is a relatively down period in polling for FG in Dublin, the model shows them taking a third seat here. This is more a function of the trends for FF and the Greens in Dublin than any great achievement for FG, but the realistic potential of a viable three-candidate strategy will be a relief to a local organisation that really kinda doesn’t want to run Kate O’Connell again but will probably have to. If they can put both O’Connell and a councillor running alongside Eoghan Murphy, it’ll head off an internal spat that could end up similar to the (extremely funny but also extremely sexist) incident that saw the local FG branch in DBN deselect Richard Bruton in protest 2016.
I don’t know if FG could manage to pull off three at the end of the day – especially with two candidates still unknown – but that’s the most probable outcome given by the numbers right now. Jim O’Callaghan (FF) is floundering, and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, while still likely competitive, is going to be at a slight disadvantage. I know while it’s easy to overreact to something like this, this is a very close call under the model (this is literally a 51/49 call), so extreme caution is needed here, and even if that probability is correct, there are a million ways for FG to completely mess up their electoral strategy or candidate selection. As long as Ryan stays ahead of O’Callaghan, he cannot be written off.
DBS is an increasingly diverse, and divided, constituency, but right now Fine Gael are looking at absolutely massive gains here. Returning two TDs and regaining the seat lost in 2016 is shaping up to be a walk in the park, and if Green polling numbers continue to falter, a third seat suddenly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, but we’re not there yet.
SF will have no issue keeping the seat held by Damascene-convert and definitely-not-a-cynical-opportunist Chris Andrews, leaving FF’s Jim O’Callaghan in the firing line, potentially throwing Fianna Fáil’s leadership succession planning into chaos.
The potential saving grace for O’Callaghan will be a the possibility of a collapse in the Green vote, where he would have a more-than-decent shot at beating a theoretical third FG candidate. If FG only run two, he’ll be safe enough – Labour will do okay, but current numbers don’t have them being particularly competitive.
It’s worth noting here that Green leader Eamon Ryan is comfortably safe under a rolling polling model – but in more trouble if you look at the most recent set of polls. If the GP’s polling trend continues, his seat will look more and more vulnerable, though his enormous FPV from 2020 does give him a nice cushion.