CLARE is like two sides of one coin. In one sense it can always buck the trend and throw up a surprise, but in another sense it can be very reflective of the national mood. Look back to 1989 when the vote reflected the two traditional parties — Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — but in ’92 it reflected the national trend by electing Dr Bhamjeé along with two Fianna Fáil and one Fine Gael TD. In ’97 we had a situation where three Fianna Fáil candidates were elected and in many ways it reflected the national trend, but in 2002 it was different again when Clare elected an independent, even though independents weren’t going that well at the time and Fianna Fáil were coasting. Then in ’07 it went somewhat back to form in the sense you had two Fine Gael and two Fianna Fáil TDs, while in ’11 it went with the national trend in that it elected a Labour TD and Fianna Fáil lost a seat. What will happen in Clare this time? It’s just less than two weeks out and a lot can happen in that time. I think anything can happen. Momentum hasn’t started driving yet. When it does start, it’s very interesting to see the way it goes. I believe that the two Fine Gael TDs, Pat Breen and Joe Carey will be elected. I say that because Fine Gael have won two seats in Clare when they were not doing as well in the polls as they are now. They got two TDs in 1982, ’87, ’89 and then in ’07 and ’11. In 2007 Fine Gael weren’t performing as well in the polls in the run up to the election as they are now, so I would be confident — even though anything can happen — that mathematically they will hold those two seats. Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley will win his seat comfortably, of that there’s no doubt. He has performed exceptionally well as an opposition spokesperson and has had a very high profile brief at national level and is one of the top five people that Fianna Fáil send out to deal with the media on a regular basis. And locally as well, of the six Oireachtas members in Clare, he’s the only opposition member and he didn’t play puck with it — he was very fair in many ways. The last seat will be extremely interesting and I certainly would not rule out Michael McNamara for that seat. What you see in that situation is Clare going back to a scenario where it bucks the trend, like it did in ’02 with James Breen. Based on the national narrative at the moment you would expect that an independent would get elected, but the fact that Michael McNamara is seen as a somewhat contrarian member of the Labour Party, someone who has taken principled stands and is a different kind of TD — not the quintessential Labour ‘defend the government at all costs’ TD. That’s the kind of person that the people of Clare do tend to embrace. He is going to be up against Dr Harty, who is an interesting candidate — there is a history of electing doctors in Clare and one would have to say that doctors seem to be mobilised, but maybe if they had mobilised six weeks earlier they would have a lot more ground covered. Dr Harty has been able to recalibrate the doctor network into a political machine. It’s very hard to see how Fianna Fáil could emerge ahead of all the independents and Michael McNamara to win a second seat. You could have the situation where three government TDs are re-elected in Clare — Pat Breen, Joe Carey and Michael McNamara — which would buck the national trend. If you look at Labour trends nationally you would say that Michael McNamara shouldn’t even feature, but I believe he will buck that trend and be in contention. The field is made up of a lot of very talented and very strong personalities with their own collection of issues and supporters feeding into a political omelette. It’s very difficult to predict — what spices up that omelette is that Michael McNamara is so different. Then you have the doctor. A lot of constituencies there are doctors who talk and threaten to run, but to be fair play to the doctors in Clare, they have followed through with their threats. They made their threats at public meetings and when they didn’t get the results they were hoping for they followed through on it. It’s something that a lot of people will admire. It’s going to be a typical county Clare election — where unpredictability is the ingredient that makes it up to be fascinating event and spectacle.
* In an interview with Joe Ó Muircheartaigh
* Senator Martin Conway has been a member of Seanad Éireann since 2011 and was a member of Clare County Council from 2004 to 2011.
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