Current TDs: 1 SF, 1 FF, 1 GP, 1 IND
Projection: 3 SF, 1 FF
Still waiting for that third Sinn Féin seat to disappear, but the first change in Waterford is different – Fine Gael dropping another seat to Fianna Fáil. Or, I suppose more accurately, FF now being favoured to hold a seat that FG looked like they would win from them. This is again a worrying sign for FG, Waterford is a clear pick-up target where they should have won a seat in 2020 but made a mess of their candidate strategy in the constituency.
The one other thing to look out for is the upward trending Independent numbers in Munster. If that continues to tick on, Matt Shanahan could re-enter the conversation. He’s a good way off at the moment, and 2020 was strange as the field behind Cullinane (SF) was extremely fractured. But there’s no guarantee this one won’t be another mess by the time an election rolls around, so the door is not completely closed for him.
It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that if Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane had printed his name on the ballot three times in 2020, he’d have won three seats all by himself. While his FPV percentage was not the highest in the country, it was still ludicrous and allowed him to absolutely monster a divided field, with his surplus effectively denying Fine Gael two seats. With Sinn Féin’s polling in Munster surging, they are poised to absolutely dominate Waterford and three seats isn’t just a likely outcome – on current numbers, it’s almost inevitable.
Fine Gael really should have taken a seat here in 2020, but a poor candidate strategy combined with Cullinane’s massive surplus breaking left denied them. If they have the sense to only run one, they should have no problem taking the non-SF seat.
That means that three incumbents – FF’s Mary Butler, the GP’s Marc Ó Cathasaigh and Independent Matt Shanahan – are looking likely to lose out, all three suffering from their groups’ polling trends. Of the three, Butler has the best chance of being competitive and may manage to sneak in if Fine Gael mess up their candidate strategy like last time round. Things are grimmer for Shanahan, a single-issue candidate who has had his single issue whipped from under him by the government, and Ó Cathasaigh, as Green Party whip, has ended up being forced to be the public face of a number of deeply unpopular moves by his party in Government. As it stands right now, neither of them have a chance.
It is worth noting that all this could go out the window if Waterford Hospital’s cath lab actually gets built before the next election.