Current TDs: 1 SF, 1 FF, 1 GP, 1 LAB (FG -1, LAB +1 from by-election)
Projection: 1 SF, 2 FG, 1 GP
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.