Sean O Neachtain's resignation has come, it appears, as a mighty shock to most of Fianna Fáil, and it's the last thing the party needs with Declan Ganley heavy breathing down its neck in the North West.
Although fears that Ganley will mop up a Galway vote abound, personally I don't think it's likely. All the digging I've done on the guy has come up with one conclusion; he rubs everyone up the wrong way. A former employee took him to the Labour Court and won - but is afraid to go public for fear of the consequences. A former schoolmate I spoke to was always somewhat wary of his lust for power. And most of the Galway business community, not just the lefties, people who would have been serious PD supporters, are certainly not Ganley voters.
The man has his supporters, but most of them are not in Galway. We heard a lot about the looney left in the run up to Lisbon I but it's the looney right you need to worry about in the more rural parts of the North West.
However, that's not to say Fianna Fáil will retain O'Neachtain's seat. In earlier predictions I anticipated that O Neachtain's seat was safe but unfortunately now we will never know. With him gone, it's hard to see who will fill the gap. Theories that he is being shafted to make way for a junior minister who's lost his job are floating around. But these are not likely for a number of reasons. Sligo's Jimmy Devins is unlikely to fit the MEP bill, as he is too close to Mooney geographically and there would be no sweeper in the south end of the constituency to sort out Clare, Galway and Mayo.
Galway East minister Michael Kitt is unlikely to fit the bill either as he is far too quiet - the main reason he's likely to be dropped is his lack of media profile. In his last junior ministry, Irish Aid, he had ample opportunity to display his largesse (this was before the budget cuts) but failed to do so. Another member of the Kitt dynasty falls short of cabinet... maybe Aine will have a better chance...
FF can't afford to drop a TD now, despite rumour that Noel Treacy (who previously ran and failed) reportedly being interested. Reports in today's Irish Indo name Eamon O Cuiv's son (who lives in London), Padraig O Ceidigh of Aer Arann, while Galway councillor Mike Crowe has also expressed an interest.
Sounds like the party is frantically scrambling behind the scenes to find a replacement, but it's hard to know who would sweep up the votes as Fianna Fáil would require - O Ceidigh would be the perfect choice but is unlikely to relinquish a successful business career in favour of an expensive election campaign and exile to Brussels... time will tell...?