Tanaiste in trouble

With just eight days until polling gets under way in the general election, Fianna Fail is fighting to retain a seat in each of the Donegal constituencies with speculation now gaining momentum that Tanaiste Mary Coughlan’s seat may be in jeopardy.

With just eight days until polling gets under way in the general election, Fianna Fail is fighting to retain a seat in each of the Donegal constituencies with speculation now gaining momentum that Tanaiste Mary Coughlan’s seat may be in jeopardy.

An internal poll by Fianna Fáil in Donegal South West which has been seen by this newspaper shows the two-candidate strategy in the constituency could cost it Ms. Coughlan’s seat. Meanwhile the Democrat understands that fine Gael has also conducted a poll and this also suggests - more strongly - that Ms. Coughlan may lose her seat. However, the Democrat has not seen this poll, the information from it was passed on verbally from a reliable Fine Gael party source.

And, in tandem with these poll findings, some national commentators, most notbaly John Drennan of the Irish Independent and Sean Donnelly, the RTE analyst, have suggested Ms. Coughlan may lose her seat.

Fianna Fáil is running just one candidate in Donegal North East in an attempt to hold a seat, but the strategy of running both Mary Coughlan and Brian Ó Domhnaill in Donegal South West is now looking increasingly risky.

The latest Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll in yesterday’s Irish Independent suggests that Fine Gael could be on its way to forming a government on its own. Fine Gael is followed by Labour on 23%, Fianna Fáil on 12%, Sinn Féin on 10%, the Green Party on 1%, and Independents and others on 16%.

Speaking about the Wednesday’s poll and the prospect of Fine Gael not needing the Labour Party to form a government, outgoing Fine Gael Deputy Joe McHugh said polls would go up and down between now and the election. “Things are going to change between now and polling day. Our job in Donegal North East is to maximise our vote and there will be a lot of determining factors between now and polling day. The key objective is to keep the momentum going.”

The latest odds from bookmakers Paddy Power make Pearse Doherty (SF) the favourite in Donegal South West at 1/50. He is followed by Dinny McGinley and Mary Coughlan at 1/10. Brian Ó Domhnaill is 5/2 with Thomas Pringle at 7/2, Frank McBrearty on 6/1, Stephen McCahill on 9/1 and Anne Sweeney and John Duffy both on 50/1. Last week Sunday Independent tipped Mary Coughlan to be narrowly beaten by Thomas Pringle to the third seat.

In Donegal North East the bookmaker has Joe McHugh and Padraig MacLochlainn at 1/20, Charlie McConalogue at 2/9 and Jimmy Harte at 10/3 are battling for the third seat. Macdara Blaney is at 9/2, John Ryan is 5/1, Betty Holmes is 6/1 , Ryan Stewart is 12/1, Dessie Shiels is 16/1, Ian McGarvey is at 33/1, and Humphrey Murphy is on 50/1.

The internal Fianna Fáil poll carried out in Donegal South West and leaked to the Donegal Democrat shows that Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty looks certain to take his seat on the first count with over 12,000 votes. Following in his neighbour’s footsteps, Dinny McGinley looks set to take the second seat for Fine Gael.

According to the survey several candidates will be vying for the third seat. Killybegs man Thomas Pringle is being viewed by many to be “transfer friendly” and could ultimately clinch the seat on the transfers from his former Sinn Fein party colleague, Pearse Doherty.

For more see page 4