Hopkins under pressure from Murphy as last seat battle looms

Kerrane a ‘dark horse’

The people who number-crunch while the rest of the population are watching Eastenders or Coronation Street are expecting the quota to be in or around 12,000.

  Get that, and you’re definitely elected.

  Post the Michael Fitzmaurice breakthrough in the 2014 By-Election, seasoned observers predicted the mother of all battles between ‘Fitz’ and Denis Naughten, the man with all the wind at his back after A&E-Gate.

  ‘We can’t elect two Independents’, became the mantra.

  Now the Fianna Fáilers and the Fine Gaelers – for it was they who said it – know what we all know: that we can elect two Independents and that we are very likely to do just that.

  The traditional powers find themselves scrapping for a seat – while keeping a nervy eye on the Sinn Fein upstarts.

   Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have helped the Independent duo. Fine Gael, due to the Feighan/Naughten/Hospital saga, and Fianna Fáil by indulging in a bizarre courting ritual en route to the altar (where their fate remains to be determined).

  Ultimately however Fitzmaurice and Naughten are the front-runners because of their profiles and popularity; just now, they are the biggest political forces in Roscommon/Galway.

  A desperate scramble for votes continues as I write. Fine Gael are nervous, yet expectant. Maura Hopkins is the favourite to join Fitzmaurice and Naughten on the winners’ podium. But Fine Gael know that the coronation they want could turn into a cliffhanger.

  Hopkins must have a very good chance of succeeding Frank Feighan. Fine Gael have been the dominant force in Roscommon since 2007. In 2011 the party had 38% vote share as compared with a historically low 15% for Fianna Fáil. Thousands of Fine Gael votes will presumably stay with Denis Naughten (ex-Fine Gael, now Independent) but Fine Gael are counting on enough remaining loyal to ensure the election of Hopkins.

  The Fine Gael strategy could be summed up as follows: Maura Hopkins is not Frank Feighan. Maura Hopkins is a new, young candidate with no baggage. Maura Hopkins represents stability and recovery.

  Fianna Fáil people will tell you ‘we have a quota’, but it’s as if they are looking for reassurance. Do they really have a quota? I find it hard to see a quota for Fianna Fáil.

  People are struggling to assess how Shane Curran will do. To some, he is the villain in this story, which is hardly fair. After all, Dublin went on bended knee to him. To others, he is the passionate voice this county needs. No one can say whether Curran will produce a surprisingly high vote or make little impression. He is boxed in a bit in the South and the feeling I am getting is that Cllr. Eugene Murphy still has the most momentum of the Fianna Fáil runners.

  We told them several weeks ago in this column that Claire Kerrane is the dark horse. They doubted us, but they’re not doubting us now. I am giving her somewhere in the region of 4,500-5,000 number ones. I may be completely wrong. I’ll tell you next week.

  I have been rude over recent weeks in not mentioning the presumed ‘losers.’ Here in the Roscommon People we like to say it as it is. By the way, there really are no losers. I imagine it takes real courage to go before the electorate and I think we should respect all of the candidates for that.

  I do not see anyone beyond Fitzmaurice, Naughten, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein being in contention. John Kelly has been a success in the Seanad and would not be out of his depth at the business end of this contest, but he won’t be in contention. Kelly will command a decent vote but he is not wearing the right colours (Labour) insofar that the party doesn’t come near to having the infrastructure in this neck of the woods to elect someone.

  Eddie Conroy might surprise us; he will get a decent vote and must be a potential Council candidate in the future, as must Renua’s enthusiastic candidate Anne Farrell, who will garner a fair degree of support but who won’t be involved at that all-important business end.

  Fitzmaurice will lose votes to Naughten in Roscommon. However Fitzmaurice will do so well in Galway that he is widely expected to top the poll, maybe with in the region of 12,000 number ones. Naughten should be next and both will be comfortably re-elected.

  The other seat? I predict that Maura Hopkins will be chased down to the wire by Eugene Murphy and Claire Kerrane and that we will be in a for a nail-biting finale.

  Hopkins has a lot of ‘early work’ done in Galway from months ago, supported by Dr. John Barton. It could tell in her favour. If she picks up 2,500 number ones in Galway, she may be home and dry. What will also work in her favour is the likelihood of a number of candidates from her part of the county transferring generously to Hopkins.

  But…I’ll go out on a limb in this difficult-to-call election. It will be tight but I have a feeling that Roscommon may continue a long tradition of producing dramatic elections. I have a feeling that there may be a twist in the FF saga and that Cllr. Eugene Murphy, boosted by a sympathy vote (due to how he was treated by HQ) could be poised to pull of a shock win and deny Hopkins.

 Prediction: 2 Independents, 1 Fianna Fáil.