Province: Rest of Leinster
Current TDs: 1 FG, 1 SF, 1 AON
Projection: 1 FG, 1 SF, 1 AON
With Sinn Féin’s numbers continuing to tick down, we’ve seen an impact in a couple of more marginal calls and Meath West is the latest, with the model now seeing Aontú’s Peadar Tóibín as favoured to hold his seat, although it remains fairly close, with Fianna Fáil also potentially very much in the mix. Tóibín was less popular once he left Sinn Féin but still benefitted nicely in 2020 from their transfers, as well as a big chunk from the Greens and Social Democrats. It remains to be seen if that will still be the case with some of the positions Aontú has staked, but as we know, policy is less of a factor in transfers than some people like to think it is.
I’ve spoke before about the trouble with polling Aontú – outside of this constituency, their support across Leinster is very limited, effectively making them as hard if not more so to project than Independents, so I am inclined to think the model is underestimating Tóibín anyway as it’s not clear how much the regional trends will end up affecting him (though I believe it is broadly correct that Aontú will struggle to add more seats).
Another interesting one here, showing Aontú’s sole TD Peadar Tóibín in trouble among continued strong Sinn Féin polling and Aontú’s numbers in Leinster being poor recently. This is tough to verify as their support is so heavily concentrated around Navan, so I would apply some caution here, and we saw some highly idiosyncratic transfer patters in the constituency in 2020, with Aontú doing much better than one might think among Soc Dem and Green transfers despite the vast differences between the parties.
That said, two SF candidates would change the dynamics of the race substantially, and would likely deprive Aontú of a good chunk of those centre-left transfers. Furthermore, if Fine Gael are smart in their electoral strategy (I have fairly low confidence in this tbh), they won’t try to run two candidates themselves this time. There’s a lot that could happen with this one, but for now, the model shows Tóibín will have a fight on his hands.
After doing research on the polls leading into GE2020, I’ve reached the conclusion that Ireland Thinks have been right for a while, and Aontú are slightly underpolled everywhere except Dublin. While this doesn’t really make a huge difference, given that most of their candidates aren’t doing very well anyway, it does matter – a lot – for Peadar Tóibín. Adjusting for the underpoll in Rest of Leinster, combined with reassessing the vote splits for SF and FG, indicates that he should be able to hold his seat comfortably.
Aontú are in a weird spot in general – they are ticking up slightly in the polls, but really have very little going on beyond Tóibín himself; I doubt very much that the average voter could name one of their three councillors, and they haven’t really established a clear identity. It’s absolutely essential for the party to hold his seat – so this will be good news for them. Winning another is an entirely different question.
This one could break a lot of ways. Johnny Guirke of SF and Damien English of FG are comfortably safe, but what happens with the third seat, held by former-Sinn Féiner and sole Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín is going to be fascinating. Currently the model indicates a second seat for FG based off their current polling surge in the province, but it also indicates a close call on this. There are a number of ways this could play out.
Firstly, while current numbers have Tóibín in trouble, I wouldn’t bank on it bearing out. He’s a strong candidate who showed in 2020 he can win outside of SF. Crucially, if Ireland Thinks have correctly identified a polling trend for Aontú that other pollsters have missed, he’ll keep his seat easily. Even if this doesn’t bear out and the majority are correct the party is very much still a one-man band, so Tóibín may not be impacted by their stagnant support levels.
Even a minor swing towards SF away from FG would also put them in the running to get a second seat. If Aontú are stumbling, a chunk of Tóibín’s vote may go back home to SF and help them out. Finally, I wouldn’t write FF off entirely here, although it’s a long shot, they’re not that far behind where they need to be to compete for the last seat. This one is going to be very interesting as polling trends evolve between now and the next election.