WITH a strong chance that there could be a complete turnover of TDs from 2016, Cork North-Central is probably the most volatile constituency in the country.
In the last 12 months, Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher left for the European Parliament, Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy left for the European Commission, and Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien left frontline politics altogether.
That leaves Solidarity’s Mick Barry as the last TD standing from four years ago, and his seat is far from safe.
He has one fellow incumbent, Fianna Fáil’s Padraig O’Sullivan, whose first term in the Dáil ended just a few weeks after he was elected to Mr Kelleher’s seat in the November by-election.
Though the slate is almost clear, that by-election provides some interesting data that might tell us how Cork North-Central will look this time next week.
Mr O’Sullivan seems to have slipped right into Mr Kelleher’s shoes, matching his 2016 vote percentage by pulling votes from the north and eastern side of the constituency.
With Thomas Gould finishing second, it looks like he will easily retain Mr O’Brien’s seat for Sinn Féin and is the most likely to top the poll.
Senator Colm Burke, who was second on first-preferences, proved that he can get the vote out, too. It may be hard for Fine Gael to reach the quota, but keeping ahead of the pack, for one of the last two seats, was enough for Mr Murphy in 2016 and will be enough for Mr Burke.
It’s the final seat that’s less predictable.
The incumbent Mr Barry has cultivated a strong personal vote over his 25 years in northside politics, but his party’s results in the local election and by-election suggest that the protest vote that finally put him in the Dáil four years ago might be gone.
And there are a number of candidates all nipping at his heels, ready to take his seat: Fianna Fáil’s Tony Fitzgerald, Fianna Fáiler-turned-independent Kenneth O’Flynn, and Labour’s John Maher.
Given Mr Kelleher’s outstanding performance in 2016, Fianna Fáil have been eyeing up a second seat, but with three Fianna Fáil candidates — Mr O’Sullivan, Mr Fitzgerald, and Sandra Murphy — along with a rogue Mr O’Flynn, there could be a huge split in the party’s vote.
And while Mr Maher has been impressive in the recent local and by-elections, he still has some ground to make up before he can win back Kathleen Lynch’s seat.
Transfers will mean everything here, and with several candidates likely to have a significant enough vote share to be in the mix for the final seat, it’s hard to predict where they will go and who will ultimately take it.