Province: Rest of Leinster
Current TDs: 1 FF, 1 SF, 1 FG, 1 GP, 1 SD
Projection: 1 FF, 2 SF, 1 FG, 1 SD
Fine Gael really should comfortably take two seats in Wicklow, so what gives? Under most recent polling, Fine Gael are sliding downward rapidly in Leinster. While Fianna Fáil aren’t exactly doing well, they stand to benefit and the model reckons Stephen Donnelly ought be favoured to keep his seat by the tiniest of amounts.
However, this is an extremely fine margin of probability, and if Fine Gael get their vote split right, they could very easily take this seat. Donnelly’s personal unpopularity, while not something the model can capture, must also be borne in mind when assessing this constituency.
This remains another very close constituency that has only got closer as the year has gone on, with steady changes in Leinster for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin reflecting in an extremely tight race for two final seats. Simon Harris (FG) and John Brady (SF) will comfortably keep their seats. The Soc Dem’s Jen Whitmore, while quite a bit further back, has a huge edge on transfers, particularly with the Greens overwhelmingly likely to lose their seat.
As before, it’s Stephen Donnelly (FF) fighting with second candidates from FG and SF for those last two, and right now the momentum has swung back in SF’s direction, albeit by the finest of margins. This is going to be intensely competitive for a while yet, unless one of the competing parties sees a substantial increase or decrease in its support.
There have been a lot of close calls this month, and this might just be the closest of the lot. To illustrate this, when modelling out the election in Wicklow, by the 10th count, Stephen Donnelly (FF), a second Sinn Féin, a second Fine Gael, and a third Fine Gael candidate are all separated by less than half of a percentage point. As it stands the model now shows Donnelly and a Fine Gaeler emerging versus last month where it was FG and SF, but it honestly may as well be a coin flip at this point. Vote management is going to be absolutely critical here, especially for SF.
Wicklow is set to be the only constituency in Ireland that looks like it will go from being represented by two Steves to zero at the next election. FF’s Stephen Donnelly and the GP’s Steven Matthews have had opposite problems in government – the former has being involved in a series of high profile blunders, the latter has been absolutely invisible – but both are looking at getting their seats wiped out as their respective parties decline in the polls.
Matthews really hasn’t a hope, but Donnelly, who as Minister for Health has been the government’s official punchbag during the COVID crisis, isn’t completely gone, though he faces an uphill battle. SF and FG both have the numbers to win two seats – indeed, FG aren’t a million miles off having three as a realistic prospect – so there really is only one other seat up for grabs.
And that means Donnelly would need to outpace SD incumbent Jen Whitmore. The model shows that Donnelly would be able to beat Whitmore on FPV (unless FF run two candidates here, which would be spectacularly ill-advised), as the SDs polling is not holding up well, but Whitmore is an absolute transfer magnet, and with an eliminated Matthews likely only adding to that pool, she is favoured to beat out the FF Minister for a seat.