THE GENERAL election date has yet to be set but the race for the third seat in the Limerick county constituency is already hotting up.
Paddy Power have opened a book in the past few days with sitting TDs – Niall Collins, Fianna Fail and Patrick O’Donovan, Fine Gael an unbackable 1/80 and 1/25.
The bookies are seemingly confident that Cllr Tom Neville - the son of the third current deputy, Dan Neville - will take the final seat as he is priced at 2/9. But the biggest mover in the market this week was Independent candidate and councillor, Emmett O’Brien. His odds were slashed on Tuesday from just under 3/1 into 5/4, following sustained support.
A Paddy Power spokesperson said: “We see Niall Collins and Patrick O’Donovan as ‘over the line’ already. That leaves one seat up for grabs with Tom Neville and Emmett O’Brien set to fight it out. Sinn Fein look to have put all their eggs in Limerick city and Seamus Browne looks set to struggle here.”
They have seen some “respected money from knowledgeable punters” for Cllr O’Brien and he is now close to even money. The barrister said he is not a betting man but believes these odds are “not unfavourable and are reducing!”
“I'm not going to be overly concerned by bookies as I’ve a lot of canvassing done and a lot more to do. I'm really looking forward to the general election and I am confident that I am in a very strong position to get elected as a first time independent candidate and be in a strong negotiating position for Limerick,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Cllr Tom Neville, Fine Gael, said that instead of Paddy Power the “power is with the people”.
“My own father was in politics for quite a period of time when he scraped past the post at one stage by one vote. You can’t take what the bookies say as gospel. We know this campaign is going to be quite lengthy and there are going to be twists and turns as there always is in campaigns. I just want to continue working for the people as best I can,” said Cllr Neville.
James Heffernan, Social Democrats, is fifth favourite at 6/1; Sinn Fein’s Seamus Browne 12/1 and the Independent candidate Richard O’Donoghue 33/1.
Despite the bookies suggesting Niall Collins could go on holidays instead of canvassing and still get elected he isn’t convinced.
“There is no certainty or guarantees in politics. On the last occasion I was elected without reaching the quota.
“I’ve worked hard continuously for the people of Limerick and hopefully they will see fit to return me. I am not a betting man and I am not going to get distracted by any odds published by Paddy Power or anybody else,” he said.
Moving to the city and it is set to be an almighty battle in the four seater. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Deputy Willie O’Dea are “nailed on” according to the bookmaker but Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has a fight on her hands.
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Fein, is third favourite at 1/9; Kieran O’Donnell, Fine Gael 2/7 and Labour’s Minister O’Sullivan 4/7.
This is the Sinn Fein man's third general election campaign and many see him as a seriously strong contender to get across the line this time. Paddy Power's man said: “Cllr Quinlivan topped the poll in Limerick City East in the local elections in 2014. Sinn Féin’s surge in the polls has been at Labour’s expense and we feel that Minister O’Sullivan may struggle like the majority of sitting Labour TDs up and down the country.
“Things have changed dramatically since 2011. She received 14.7 per cent of first preference votes the last time but we expect the number to be much lower this time round. Therefore we have her as fifth favourite in this four seater. She has gone untouched so far by punters and we won’t be surprised to see Jan O’Sullivan lose her seat in a battle with Kieran O’Donnell,” said the Paddy Power spokesperson.