Province: Rest of Leinster
Current TDs: 1 FG, 1 SF, 2 FF
Projection: 1 FG, 1 SF, 2 FF
This is a new one – the first time we’ve seen a change in Longford-Westmeath. Fine Gael are struggling in Leinster right now – Sinn Féin are nearly 13% clear of them and Fianna Fáil are barely 2.5% behind. This should have been a real target pickup for FG and now it looks to be slipping away. Indeed, FG, FF and SF support in the constituency are likely within a few percentage points of eachother, so while for now the final seat is back with the FF incumbent, it’s far from certain. When things are this tight, factors like geography, candidate numbers and vote splits have a potentially outsize role to play.
It is worth bearing in mind however that there’s a substantial wildcard in play in the form of former TD Kevin “Boxer” Moran (IND). It’s not that I think he’ll get his seat back – that would be very, very difficult on current numbers – but rather if he doesn’t run again, where would his votes go? We haven’t seen Boxer’s votes transfer since 2011 – and then they broke roughly 61% FG, 25% SF and 14% FF.
But it’s impossible to estimate the impact of things like geography, or the fact that SF are much stronger now than in 2011, or that his votes in 2011 could only go to those three parties because of the elimination order. If he doesn’t run again, it’ll be really interesting to see the impact.
Longford-Westmeath is one of the more geographically divided constituencies in Ireland; the two counties involved vote heavily local, to the point where the strategy for the bigger parties has invariably been to run a Longford candidate and a Westmeath candidate. This doesn’t even factor in that on top of that there are the normal local divides within each county, but the bigger split here is stark.
SF’s seat is safe, as is FG’s, and one FF seat. FG are on course have enough support to get a second candidate over the line ahead of the second FFer, likely making the swap at the Longford end of the constituency. With that said, the numbers are still close and that could change – especially if SF are able to drive gains outside of Sorca Clarke’s strongholds around Mullingar.