A MAJOR political upset could be on the cards in General Election 2016 in Clare should the results of a Clare Champion-commissioned opinion poll be replicated on February 26.
Using a sample ballot paper, the poll, undertaken by the marketing department at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), indicates that Independent candidate Dr Michael Harty and Sinn Féin’s Noeleen Moran are poised to take seats, at the expense of sitting TDs, Joe Carey of Fine Gael and Labour’s Michael McNamara.
Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley and Fine Gael’s Pat Breen are effectively home and dry.
With national polls indicating that the outcome of General Election 2016 is poised delicately in the balance, the Clare result could be a major contributory factor in determining the shape of the next government in the 32nd Dáil.
The closeness of the contest at national level has been heightened by the reduction in the number of seats by eight to 158.
Conducted last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the data in The Clare Champion 2016 Clare Constituency General Election Poll is based on the responses of 660 registered electors, collected at 14 sample points across the Clare constituency.
The sample was distributed between the electoral areas of Ennis, Shannon, Killaloe and West Clare, on the basis of the numbers registered to vote in each area.
Topping the poll in Clare, with a total of 17.18% of first preferences, including an impressive 37.40% in the Killaloe area, 15.70% in Ennis, 14% in Shannon and 8.7% in West Clare, it is expected that Timmy Dooley will be returned to the Dáil on the 10th count at The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon on Saturday, February 27.
Pat Breen features in second place, with a 15.49% share of first preferences, including 23.84% in Ennis, 16.43% in West Clare, 12% in Shannon and 6.5% in Killaloe. He is expected to retain his seat on 12th count.
Dr Michael Harty’s emergence on the political stage a month ago sent tremors among the incumbent Clare TDs and other serious challengers for the four seats. Campaigning under the No Doctor, No Village slogan, he has brought on board a big number of medical professionals from all over the county, together with a sizeable rural following.
West Clare is his stronghold, with our poll showing Dr Harty capturing 26.09% of the first preferences in this area. Placed fourth overall on 12.12% of first preferences, he has an 8.14% share of the spoils in Ennis, 6% in Shannon and 1.63% in Killaloe.
LIT analysts have identified Dr Harty as the most ‘transfer-friendly’ candidate in the field and the outcome of the ballot sees him elected in third position after count 13, without reaching the quota.
Noeleen Moran’s emergence from the shadows will provide a major talking point. Bidding to become the first Sinn Féin TD elected in Clare since Eamon de Valera’s famous 1917 by-election win, she features in third spot at 12.88% of first preferences, slightly ahead of Dr Harty.
According to the poll, Shannon yields a 31.33% first-preference return for Ms Moran, while she polls 8.14% in Ennis, 8.13% in Killaloe and 6.28% in West Clare.
Sceptics may downplay her chances, with suggestions that the historic Sinn Féin vote in Shannon town doesn’t extend too far but LIT analysts note respondents were broad-based in profile and point to a trend of steady progress on transfers. A big factor will be getting young people out to vote.
She is chalked down to take the final seat, without reaching the quota, pipping outgoing Labour TD, Michael McNamara.
In fifth position with 8.74% first preferences is Deputy McNamara, while outgoing Deputy Joe Carey is in sixth place on 6.13%.
Deputy McNamara secured 18.7% in Killaloe, 9.3% in Ennis, 6.67% in Shannon and 3.86% in West Clare.
Deputy Carey’s break-down by area is 10% in Shannon, 7.56% in Ennis, 4.88% in Killaloe and 2.9% in West Clare.
The poll shows neither Deputy Carey nor Deputy McNamara recovering sufficient ground, with the former exiting after the 10th count and latter clinging until the final count, when the transfer would favour Ms Moran.
Mid-table candidates on first preferences include Clare Colleran Molloy (Fianna Fáil) on 5.67%, Michael McDonagh (Fianna Fáil) on 5.06%, Fergal Smith (Green Party) on 3.68% and Mary Howard (Fine Gael) and Ian Lynch (Independent), both on 3.07%. They are followed by Ann Norton (Independent) on 2.61%, Niamh O’Brien (Fís Nua) on 1.84%, Richard Cahill (Independent) on 1.53%, André Sibo Hakizimana (Independent) on 0.61% and Dermot Mulqueen (Independent) on 0.31%.
People were also polled regarding their views on issues such as Shannon Airport and Industry Park, flood defences, health services, social/local authority housing and investment in services for children and adults with special needs.
The overall poll has a margin of error of 5% and a confidence level of 99%. These margins do not apply to the individual results in the electoral areas, only to the overall count.
While the sample includes a range of ages and both sexes, it was not controlled in respect of other factors, such as occupation and urban/rural location.
For a more indepth look at the poll, see this week’s edition of The Clare Champion.
By Austin Hobbs