Aras11: and then there was five, or four…..

With each passing day the Aras11 race increasingly resembles a remake of the 1945 Agatha Christie movie: And Then There Were None.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Barry Fitzgerald classic, or its later remakes, the plot revolves around a group of people brought together on a remote and isolated location by Mr U. N. Owen (say it out loud and you will get it).

One by one the guests depart. Each in increasingly tragic circumstances, until there is just one is left. Or, is there? Have each of them really gone to meet their maker? Could there be a last minute twist in the tale?

Ok, I have done this metaphor to death, but you can see where I am going with it.

Labour’s early selection of Michael D Higgins heralded early exits by Fergus Finlay and Kathleen O’Meara. Niall O’Dowd’s withdrawal last week and Avril Doyle’s exit this week has brought the total number of viable candidates down by four. I say “viable” as there are two also-rans seeking Council nominations.

Today’s Fine Gael selection convention will reduce the field by a further two – though you will find it hard to get a firm consensus on which two.

So what does this all mean? Well, by the close of business tonight the original field will have been halved. Three of these will definitely be on the Aras11 ballot paper: the FG and Lab nominees, plus Sean Gallagher. Two more: Mary Davis and Senator David Norris will be hoping to make it before the final deadline.

So it now looks like there will be a field of five candidates when the election comes around in October. Or will there? Will there be one or two more – will there be one less?  October is still a long way away.

With 33 Oireachtas members, Fianna Fáil has more than the 20 signatures needed and could still choose to support a candidate not already in the race and not necessarily from the Fianna Fáil family.

With a total of 31, the Independent TDs and Senators, including United Left Alliance, could also nominate, if they can find one on whom twenty of them can agree Though Norris supporters suggest he has 8 or 9 of them already signed up.

While Sinn Féin, with 17 Oireachtas members, would need to get three Independents on side to give a nomination to a person of their choice.

Back on the Council trail: the longest declared candidate, Senator David Norris, must be feeling pretty miffed to be overtaken in the Council stakes by Sean Gallagher on 5 and Mary Davis on 2.

Gallagher’s relative ease in securing motions of intent would suggest that he and his team were working on this campaign long before he officially entered the race. I know some of his core campaign team. They are very skilled professionals who have run it like a classic Seanad campaign.

It is this skill and ability; however, that makes Mary Davis’s victory in Gallagher’s Louth and Monaghan backyards all the more impressive.  Her comfortable margins suggests that my mate, and keen political blogger, Jonny Fallon, was right when he tweeted a few weeks back that the other Independents would have to wait until Gallagher got his four councils.

It also suggests that a coalition of non Fine Gael councillors across the remaining councils is preparing to swing in behind the Special Olympics boss Davis, as their next favoured independent. She now looks certain be also be on the Aras11

Less certain is Norris. He has been waiting for almost two months to follow up on his one success in Fingal Council. It will be interesting to see if Fine Gael is still set on stymieing his campaign. This would be in contrast to the Fine Gael abstentions elsewhere which allowed Gallagher to get through.

Maybe Fine Gael fear Norris more than Gallagher, or maybe they just want someone in the race who they can label and attack as a Fianna Fáiler?

Who knows, only time will tell – and time, as Agatha Christie observed, is the best killer.


From Evening Herald July 9th 2011

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