Analysis: Fianna Fáil back in power unless Bertie bombs:
If he survives the election campaign, the chances are Bertie Ahern will be Taoiseach again. This is a substantial “if” at the time of writing. But his party will lose many seats – on these predictions 10 seats. However, Fine Gael won't win sufficient seats to be able to form a government with Labour and the Greens. The next government will be Fianna Fáil and Labour.
The predictions assume Fianna Fáil will lose seats in Cork South Central and Cork South West. Also in Dublin North East (maybe Michael Woods), Dublin North West (Noel Ahern or Pat Carey), and Dublin South Central (Michael Mulcahy). Further losses in Louth (Seamus Kirk) and Tipperary North (maybe Michael Smith).
But it assumes they will gain a seat in Kerry South (from Jackie Healy Rea) and they retain doubtful seats in Cork North Central, Cork North West, Dublin Central (Bertie Ahern's constituency), Dublin North, Dublin North Central, Dun Laoghaire and Laois Offaly.
So if everything were to go wrong for Fianna Fáil, they would be at 63 seats, an unlikely outcome, unless Bertie Ahern fails to dig himself out of the payments controversy.
The predictions show Sinn Féin at just seven seats but that assumes Martin Ferris loses to Labour in Kerry North and Mary Lou McDonald could take the second Fianna Fáil seat in Dublin Central.
The Greens will make three gains according to the predictions (Mary White in Carlow-Kilkenny, Niall O'Brollachain in Galway West and Deirdre de Burca in Wicklow). The PDs will lose everyone except Michael McDowell, Mary Harney and Liz O'Donnell but the latter is by no means sure. Predictions for the smaller parties are particularly hazardous because the opinion polls are entirely unreliable about their support strength.
These predictions assume that Independents will retain doubtful seats in Cavan-Monaghan, Clare, Galway East, Mayo (Beverly Flynn) and that Joe Higgins and Clare Daly take seats for the Socialist party.
Overall predictions: Fianna Fáil 71; Fine Gael 44; Labour 22; Greens 9; Sinn Féin 7; PDs 3; Others 10.
• Best candidate: Our subjective assessment.
• Weakest link: The most marginal candidate.
• In the long grass: The candidate most likely to surprise.