Current TDs: 2 FG, 1 FF, 1 SF
Projection: 2 FG, 1 FF, 1 SF
No great shock at this one moving back, especially with Fine Gael having a solid month in Connacht-Ulster, as this felt like a one-off artefact rather than something substantial. That said, the fact that this has even been in question is a testament to how badly FG are wobbling, even with a more positive set of results this month.
Since there isn’t much more to say on this one, let’s engage in some fun speculation – Fine Gael incumbent Michael Ring, the undisputed king of South Mayo, is 68 years old. He’ll be in his 70s by the time the next election rolled around. If he were to retire, that might make things a lot murkier here and really could open up the path to FG managing to lose its second seat. But for now he’s still in action, and the seat should stay with his party.
Okay, yeah, I know. This looks wrong. This probably is wrong. Bear with me.
First, to make it very clear: I don’t think the model is right here, I don’t think SF will take two seats in Mayo and FG only win one. I don’t think it will never happen, but I don’t think we are at that level yet. But I’ve been consistent in not adjusting the model outputs simply because I disagree with them, as then I might as well just guess what I think is right, and that would be more wrong. But this is a good illustration of the challenges for the model. So I’m going to talk about that rather than the result, which I think is a fluctuation that will self-correct.
Because we only have provincial level polling, and not constituency level, it creates challenges in outlier areas because swing is applied consistently across all constituencies in a province. Mayo is substantially more Fine Gael than most places in Connacht-Ulster, so the swing there is probably less than in, say, Donegal. But we don’t have data to put a number to that feeling, so we have to proceed, and the model will occasionally throw up weird results like this. There’s maybe something to look at here, but I’m not sure how to account for it. It’s absolutely a good indication though of why pure data will never be 100% accurate!
Not a lot to note here – this is largely due to better calculation of the FG vote split putting one of their candidates below Dara Calleary (FF). It’s still very tight between Calleary and the 2nd and 3rd FG candidates, so this is another one that could end up being challenging for FF in the long run. A second SF candidate remains a potential threat but they’d need a movement of a few more points before that becomes plausible.
I do have questions overall about the frequency with which the model is predicting three seats for a single party in certain constituencies. It shows this in Donegal, Dublin South-Central, Louth and Waterford for SF, and in Dublin Bay South, Dún Laoghaire and now Mayo for FG, and I want to do some rationalisation on how the model optimises candidate numbers for April’s update, which should help eliminate any three-seat wins that are noise.
But with that said, polling implies FG will take over 50% of FPV in Mayo, which in a four seater is enough to put three TDs in, depending on how things break with other parties. FG taking an overall majority of votes in Mayo is well precedented – they broke 50% in the constituency in 2007, 2011 and 2016. They haven’t won three seats here since the constituency moved from 5 to 4 seats, but the key thing is the projected collapse in the FF vote – Dara Calleary’s seat is at serious risk. With that said, similar to Kerry, this is very close and there’s a lot of ways FG could fail to capitalise. As mentioned above with Foley, a running mate is a risk, but without one, Calleary would need to be able to collect much more FPV in the south of the county than he did last time out.
Mayo is a serious Fine Gael stronghold, and with current polling trends they are on course to win north of 50% of all FPV there. Both of their seats are extremely safe, the real question is, can they get a third? Right now the model doesn’t favour this, but all it would take is FF to botch a two-candidate strategy. If that happens, the final seat will open up for them.
Sinn Féin, who cruised to a seat in 2020, with Rose Conway-Walsh more than doubling her vote from 2016, do still have some room to grow, especially with the departure of a left-wing Green candidate who set records for the party in the constituency. However, the model doesn’t have them in play for a second seat unless FF decide to run too many candidates and FG mess up their own strategy.
As alluded to above, FF may want to be conservative on this one. They aren’t going to take more than one seat, and running additional candidates could pose risks if they get the vote division wrong. Their decision will have the most impact on the final seat, so it will be interesting to see what they declare, and where the polls are when they do.