The latest TG4/MRBI opinion poll shows the Independent TD Tom Gildea losing his seat in the next election. The poll is good news for Fianna Fáil and appears to bolster its decision to run MEP Pat “The Cope” Gallagher, a former TD for the constituency. Mr Gallagher would top the poll in an election according to the survey taking back the Fianna Fáil seat won by Gildea in the last election.

The election of Tom Gildea caused a major surprise in Donegal South West in 1997. A part-time farmer, he ran on the then- controversial television deflector issue and prevented Fianna Fáil’s Enda Bonner from taking over the seat held by his party colleague MEP Pat “The Cope” Gallagher.

According to this TG 4 opinion poll, the return of Pat “The Cope” to national politics and a significant decline in Gildea’s popularity indicates Fianna Fáil will win back that seat. Tom Gildea is the first sitting deputy in a TG4 MRBI poll to register a higher level of dissatisfaction than satisfaction among constituents.

Forty per cent say they are dissatisfied with him, only 33% are satisfied. Minister of State, Mary Coughlan, gets the highest voter approval followed closely by Deputy Dinny McGinley of Fine Gael.

Four hundred voters were given a mock ballot paper with ten candidates and 31% gave their first preference to Pat “The Cope” Gallagher. In an election he and Mary Coughlan would bring in a Fianna Fáil vote of 55%, 17% up on 1997.

Dinny McGinley and Jim White together poll 21% for Fine Gael and the combined Sinn Féin vote of Pearse Doherty and Tom Dignam is 9%.

Labour's Seamus Rodgers and Sean O'Baoill, Independent Fianna Fáil polled 3%each and Independent Thomas Pringle, 4%. The big blow for Tom Gildea comes with a very poor 5% of first preferences and the clear prospect that he will lose his seat and see Donegal Southwest returning to exactly the same pre-1997 election situation - Pat “The Cope” and Mary Coughlan returned for Fianna Fáil and Dinny McGinley for Fine Gael.