Current TDs: 1 SF, 1 FG, 2 IND (FF -1, IND +1 from defection)
Projection: 1 FF, 2 SF, 1 FG
This one is madness. There are so many questions about this constituency. Will Marc MacSharry run as an Independent? Who will Fianna Fáil run instead of him – Eamon Scanlon? If MacSharry does run as an Indo, what does that do to the FF vote? Will Marian Harkin come back for another go? What happens if Fianna Fáil don’t make a complete meal of their candidate strategy? How does it look when there aren’t twelve no-hopers absorbing a quarter of FPV?
It really is impossible to be sure how this shakes out, and no amount of modelling is going to be able to give us a good picture until we know who is running – and even then, MacSharry is a complete wildcard that I don’t think can be accurately accounted for with any current polling data.
Based on raw numbers right now, the model thinks Sinn Féin’s second candidate is marginally more likely than Harkin to take the fourth seat, but honestly I have no idea what will happen here and frankly, I don’t think anyone does.
It is worth noting that Sligo-Leitrim had nineteen candidates on the ballot paper in the last GE. Twelve of these never had a chance at being anything close to competitive, but they managed to absorb over 25% of total FPV between them. A shorter ballot paper next time around could have significant impact as it would potentially free up an entire quota. It would be tough to predict who this would benefit the most; Harkin was very transfer friendly in 2020, but this could change if SF run a second candidate to take up more of the left-leaning preferences.
Fianna Fáil have never not held a seat in Sligo-Leitrim, holding on through three, four and five seat iterations of the constituency (though this is perhaps a technical victory; they didn’t hold any seats here from 2011-2016, when the constituency was broken in two). Currently, the model indicates that this is going to change and they’ll be squeezed out by SF and FG.
I should note that this is an extremely marginally “most likely” outcome – FF have a more than decent chance to hang on, and the difference is well within the margin of error, particularly if they choose to run one candidate. At that point, FG are more likely to miss out on a second seat than SF. But ultimately, Marc MacSharry is a gaffe machine and his party are in decline, so it’s tough for FF here.
Marian Harkin (IND) has a lifelong habit of upsetting the big boys, and her election here in 2020 was no exception, returning to the Dáil as she scooped up transfers from absolutely everywhere. With the current decline in polling for Independents, things look rough for her, but it’s always tough to write off Independents who are beloved locally – there is a tendency, I think, to view them as primarily loyal to the constituents, while party politicians are perceived as primarily loyal to their party. This is exactly the kind of thing a mathematical/polling model can miss, so while she’s not favoured, I wouldn’t discount her entirely (assuming she doesn’t retire, which has been rumoured).