Current TDs: 2 IND, 1 SF
Projection: 1 IND, 1 SF, 1 FF
This is a bit of an odd one. Denis Naughten (IND) has announced that he won’t be contesting the next election, and thus his seat is gone. The question of course is who would benefit from this – and the instinctive response would be Fine Gael. Naughten was a member of the party from 1997 until 2011, before losing the whip. Following this, he joined the Reform Alliance political group, but was smart enough to get out before it turned into the gigantic clusterfuck that was Renua. As an Independent he propped up Enda Kenny’s minority government and was rewarded with a ministry until he was caught up in a corruption scandal.
As you can see, despite being an Independent, the Fine Gael history is strong. So why does the model think this seat will go to Fianna Fáil? There’s two reasons. Firstly, based on polling, FF are likely going to be stronger than FG here, as they were in 2016 and 2020. Secondly, looking at where Naughten’s transfers have historically gone during his time as an Independent, they have tended to go more to FF than to FG?
And now the reasons why this could be wrong: FF have been stronger than FG in Roscommon-Galway, but is that the natural state of things or is it because Naughten took up votes that otherwise might have gone to FG? The transfer numbers are from 2016, transfers are not a reliable metric at the best of times and even less so from this long ago. Will geography end up being a factor depending on who each party runs? Or will another Independent emerge from somewhere like Michael Fitzmaurice did?
This is definitely a case that pushes up against the limitations of the model, and this is certainly a projection that could end up being wildly wrong; there are a lot of obfuscatory factors. However, absent a better way of doing it, and as picking what I personally think might happen would defeat the entire point of this experiment, it goes into the FF column.
Independents have been polling well recently, particularly in Connacht-Ulster, so this change shouldn’t be a huge surprise, as the model now favours Denis Naughten to hold his seat against Fine Gael, though naturally it remains close. Fianna Fáil are the only other party looking at breaking 2% FPV here, so their transfers will be crucial in deciding this one, and in 2020 they didn’t look great for FG.
Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane and Independent Michael Fitzmaurice look fairly comfortable here. Polling numbers have Kerrane as a potential poll-topper, and Fitzmaurice is easily popular enough to ride out the downward movement of Independents.
The other IND TD, Denis Naughten, might be in trouble, and the model suggests that he will lose out to a surging Fine Gael. The one thing that is missed by the model, and might help Naughten, is that he is essentially an Independent FG candidate, having represented the party in the Dáil for over a decade. While his vote crumbled in 2020, following a fairly disastrous stint as a Minister, he still commanded enough support to handily see of an FG challenger. It remains to be seen if he can pull that off again and peel away enough of the FG surge to keep his seat, but right now it looks tough.
Fianna Fáil will also be borderline competitive here, but their declining numbers put them below Naughten right now, let alone Fine Gael. Without a polling swing back in their direction, regaining the seat they lost in 2020 will be a big ask.