Trish Deeney joins the 'You're FFired' silent protest outside the Dail last week

WE mightn't know when exactly but, after last week's extraordinary events, we now know for sure a general election is on the way in the first part of next year. And it promises to be one of the most fascinating in the history of the state.

Set against a backdrop of economic crisis and the intervention of the EU/IMF, huge shifts of power are expected. Fianna Fáil, for 80 years the biggest party, is set to be finally overtaken by Fine Gael, and quite possibly Labour, and swept from office after ruling for 22 of the past 24 years.

It's obvious that the next government will be made up of Fine Gael and Labour and will enjoy a huge majority. But other major questions remain. How low can Fianna Fáil go? Is there a floor of 40 seats or could it conceivably be down in the 20s? Conversely, how high can Labour go? It will certainly have its best-ever election but can it get into the 50s and challenge Fine Gael as the biggest party? Could the Greens be completely wiped out? Can Sinn Féin and other left-wing groups capitalise on the public disaffection?

The Sunday Tribune has analysed all 43 constituencies, and, using a combination of national polls, local polls, local expertise, local election results and historical general election data, we have come up with a forecast of what the next Dáil could look like.

Caveats apply. A lot can change during a general election campaign. Many of the final seats will depend on transfers and the eighth or ninth counts, so definitively predicting the outcome is a hazardous business. The state of flux at the moment adds to that uncertainty. The €6bn budget cuts could further eat into Fianna Fáil's support and could mean that more constituencies will end up returning no FF deputy than the five constituencies we have forecast.

You will no doubt disagree with some of the predictions but that's the beauty of the exercise: no two views are the same. The Sunday Tribune's view is that, when the votes are counted, Fine Gael will have 60 seats, Labour 45, Fianna Fáil 43, Sinn Féin seven, the Greens and the Socialist Party one each, and there will be nine independents.

Carlow-Kilkenny (5 seats)

THIS is government territory at present, with three Fianna Fáil TDs and Green Party minister Mary White. At least two of those government seats will go. Labour had a seat here for 50 years until Séamus Pattison retired in 2007, and the party polled 18.5% in the local elections, so Anne Phelan will take a seat. Fine Gael is hoping for three seats but may have to make do with two.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 2 (–1), Labour 1 (+1), Greens 0 (–1).

Cavan-Monaghan (5)

Only one of Fianna Fáil's three seats looks safe – probably that of minister Brendan Smith in Cavan – and there is one definite Sinn Féin seat and one certain gain for Fine Gael, to bring the party's representation to two. The fifth seat is up for grabs, and Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are all eyeing it. FF might just squeeze home, but it's far from guaranteed.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 2 (–1), SF 1 (no change).

Clare (4)

Fine Gael looks guaranteed to hold its two seats. Only one of Fianna Fáil's two seats is safe and then it's between FF, Labour and, if he runs, former independent TD James Breen for the final seat. Labour famously won a seat here in 1992 with Moosajee Bhamjee, and the party hopes it can repeat that with Michael McNamara, who ran as an independent in the Euro elections. While he polled only 12,744 votes, virtually all of those came from Clare.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Independent 1 (+1).

Cork East (4)

THERE are effectively two two-seat constituencies here: the northern part, made up of the urban centres of Mallow, Fermoy and Mitchelstown, and east Cork, made up of Cobh, Youghal and Midleton. Seán Sherlock of Labour in the northern part and Fine Gael's David Stanton in the east are certainties. Ned O'Keeffe in the north looks better placed that Michael Ahern in the east to take what will be only one FF seat. That would leave Fine Gael's Paul Bradford, Labour's John Mulvihill and Sinn Féin's Sandra McLellan in a fight for the final seat.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (n/c) SF 1 (+1).

Cork North Central (4)

ONE of the two FF seats will go here and it could be junior minister Billy Kelleher rather than party maverick Noel O'Flynn. Fine Gael will certainly take one seat, as will Labour's Kathleen Lynch. Her running mate, John Gilroy, who got over 4,500 votes in the locals, should benefit from transfers from the likes of Mick Barry of the Socialist Party (who cannot be discounted from the race) and Sinn Féin.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c) FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Cork North West (3)

There was a huge Fianna Fáil vote here in 2007, but it's hard to see the party holding its two seats. Labour's Martin Coughlan has an outside chance of a seat but, geographically, his Macroom base is not ideal and in a small field there will be limited scope for him to pick up transfers. It's a pretty conservative constituency and it should bring a gain for Fine Gael.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1) and FF 1 (–1).

Cork South Central (5)

Four of the seats looked nailed down here. Fine Gael will hold its two seats and Fianna Fáil and Labour can be assured of one each. Then all three parties are in the shake-up for the final seat. It's virtually impossible to call. Fine Gael fancies its chances of three; FF's Michael McGrath (presuming Mícheál Martin is elected) can't be written off; but Labour may prove more transfer-friendly.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Cork South West (3)

Much will be determined by which of the three sitting TDs stand again. Labour has great time for its candidate, Michael McCarthy, and he certainly has a decent chance, but the local election results points to 'no change'.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (n/c).

Donegal North East (3)

Given the success of Pearse Doherty in neighbouring Donegal South West, Sinn Féin's Padraig MacLochlainn will be looking to take the seat vacated by FF's Jim McDaid. Labour's Jimmy Harte, whose father was a long-time Fine Gael TD, now has Letterkenny to himself in McDaid's absence. But it looks a long shot for Labour.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), SF 1 (+1).

Donegal South West (3)

It's hard to imagine Pearse Doherty not being returned again in a general election. Fine Gael will take another seat. Tánaiste Mary Coughlan should also win one but the possibility of the two FF candidates splitting the vote and both losing out cannot be dismissed.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), SF 1 (+1).

Dublin Central (4)

Only one party can be absolutely sure of a seat here: Labour's Joe Costello will be returned and should top the poll. After that there are more questions than answers. Will Bertie Ahern stand again? Would he win if he did? Can Fine Gael win a seat in what has been hostile territory? Can Maureen O'Sullivan hold the 'Gregory seat'? Can Labour take a second seat?

Prediction: FG 1 (+1), FF 0 (–2), Labour 2 (+1), Independent 1 (n/c).

Dublin Mid West (4)

This is another difficult constituency to call. Presumably Mary Harney won't stand. There will be a Fine Gael seat and a Labour seat but both parties will be targeting a second. Chief whip John Curran may just hold on; the Greens' Paul Gogarty may not.

Prediction: FG 1 (+1), FF 1 (n/c), Labour 2 (+1), Greens 0 (–1), Independent 0 (–1).

Dublin North (4)

Only one of the four TDs here – FG's James Reilly – is safe. Labour will make one gain and possibly two. Fianna Fáil should hold one of its two seats. Trevor Sargent has the best chance of all of the Greens of holding on but it's far from guaranteed in a constituency that has proven something of a weather vane in the past. The challenge of Clare Daly from the Socialist Party has been hit by the redrawing of the constituency boundary.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (+1), Greens 1 (n/c).

Dublin North Central (3)

Richard Bruton is safe here and Labour's Aodhán Ó Riordáin will win a seat. That leaves Fianna Fáil's Seán Haughey and independent Finian McGrath battling it out for the last seat.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 0 (–1), Labour 1 (+1), Independent 1 (n/c).

Dublin North East (3)

Labour's Tommy Broughan and Fine Gael's Terence Flanagan should be okay but a Fianna Fáil seat may depend on Michael Woods running again. Labour's second candidate, Seán Kenny, won 4,000 votes in the locals and has a real chance of winning a seat.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 0 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Dublin North West (3)

At least one Fianna Fáil seat will go – the party got just 16% in the locals here – and Fine Gael has always been weak in this constituency. Róisín Shortall will probably top the poll and could bring a running mate with her. Sinn Féin can't be ruled out here.

Prediction: FG 0 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Dublin South (5)

This is the ultimate bellwether constituency. Fine Gael will hold its two seats and could gain a third with the right candidate, although that seems unlikely. Labour should gain one but could win two – it had two quotas here in 1992. Fianna Fáil may hold one seat if Tom Kitt stands, and Green minister Eamon Ryan will have a serious fight to hold on to his seat.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (–1 from the 2007 general election), Labour 2 (+2), Greens 0 (–1).

Dublin South Central (5)

Labour will definitely make a gain here but its chances of winning three seats have been hit by the retirement of Mary Upton. Fine Gael won't gain here unless Gay Mitchell returns from Europe. Both Fianna Fáil seats look highly vulnerable, while Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh is not safe and could come under pressure from Bríd Smyth of People Before Profit.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1), Sinn Féin 1 (n/c).

Dublin South East (4)

As in 2007, there is likely to be a ministerial casualty here, with Green Party leader John Gormley under serious pressure. Fianna Fáil's Chris Andrews is far from safe but may just hang on. Fine Gael and Labour are guaranteed one each and will probably battle it out for the final seat. Labour's Ruairí Quinn-Kevin Humphreys ticket looks the better balanced.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (n/c), Labour 2 (+1), Greens 0 (–1).

Dublin South West (4)

Fianna Fáil is in serious danger of losing both its seats here and Charlie O'Connor could end up battling it out with Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe for the final seat. Brian Hayes of Fine Gael will be returned comfortably, as will Pat Rabbitte, with running mate Eamonn Maloney.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Dublin West (4)

This looks pretty predictable, with incumbents Brian Lenihan, Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton all safe and former TD Joe Higgins tipped to take the extra seat awarded the constituency by the electoral commission.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (n/c), Labour 1 (n/c), Socialist Party 1 (+1).

Dun Laoghaire (4)

This should be prime Fine Gael territory and the party outperformed Labour here in the locals. But the Gilmore factor must surely come into play. The Labour leader will top the poll, presumably with a large surplus. There is definitely one Fine Gael seat and one of the two FF ministers should survive – Mary Hanafin might not be the one as the Andrews name still has a cachet. Green minister Ciarán Cuffe won't hold on. Then it's between Labour, FG and, possibly, Richard Boyd Barrett for the final seat. The Gilmore factor should swing it Labour's way.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1), Greens 0 (–1). This constituency lost a seat in the boundary revision.

Galway East (4)

Fine Gael's two seats are surely nailed down here despite the retirement of its two TDs. The question is can it deliver a third seat? Fianna Fáil can hardly hold its two but Labour – barely an also-ran here for decades – has designs on a seat with Tuam-based councillor Colm Keaveney. It could happen, particularly given the change in personnel in FG. There is also the possibility of an independent (Declan Ganley?) emerging.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (+1).

Galway West (5)

Fianna Fáil could hold its two seats here: Eamon Ó Cuív will survive, while Frank Fahey is a battler. But you can't see those two and former PD Noel Grealish all coming through. Labour won't win two without Micheal D Higgins on the ticket. Fine Gael, however, might. Independent Catherine Connolly is also a realistic contender.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (n/c), Independent 1 (n/c).

Kerry North-Limerick West (3)

Change looks likely here, as Labour's Arthur Spring should regain the family seat. FG's Jimmy Deenihan will be fine, so it's between Sinn Féin's Martin Ferris and FF's Tom McEllistrim for the last seat. Ferris will be favourite but the inclusion of the chunk from Limerick could yet swing it for Fianna Fáil.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 0 (–1), Labour 1 (+1), SF 1 (n/c).

Kerry South (3)

Only one seat looks safe here – FG's Tom Sheahan – and even that isn't guaranteed. Labour is aiming to regain the seat formerly held by Breeda Moynihan Cronin with her former constituency secretary Marie Moloney, a councillor from Killarney. There is a body of opinion that says John O'Donoghue's seat is vulnerable and it's between him and Michael Healy-Rae for the final seat. If the Gilmore gale is blowing strong, it could be Labour but we're going for no change.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (n/c), Independent 1 (n/c).

Kildare North (4)

Fianna Fáil hasn't a hope of holding its two seats and could well lose both. Emmet Stagg will be comfortably returned and could bring a running mate. Fine Gael will hold one seat and independent Catherine Murphy, a former TD and an impressive vote-getter in the locals, has a real shot. Three left-wing seats is a distinct possibility.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (n/c), Independent 1 (+1).

Kildare South (3)

One of the Fianna Fáil seats will go, with Seán Power apparently looking the more vulnerable. FG will benefit in a constituency where it hasn't had a seat since Alan Dukes lost in 2002.

Prediction: FG 1 (+1), FF 1 (n/c), Labour 1 (n/c).

Laois-Offaly (5)

It's hard to see Fianna Fáil holding its three seats, even if Brian Cowen's name is on the ballot paper. Fine Gael will hold its two. Labour won a seat here in the Spring Tide of '92 and this is now Dublin commuter-belt territory. Its candidate will be Portlaoise-based and could well take a seat.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 2 (–1), Labour 1 (+1).

Limerick City (4)

Limerick City is down to four seats, three of which look guaranteed – Willie O'Dea, Michael Noonan and Jan O'Sullivan. FG's Kieran O'Donnell hasn't been helped by a constituency redrawing, while junior minister Peter Power seems in big trouble. Could Labour take a second seat here? Yes, with the help of SF transfers.

Prediction: FG 1 (–1), Fianna Fáil 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Limerick (3)

The old Limerick West constituency was traditionally the preserve of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael (with the former generally winning two seats to FG's one). FG will be hoping to reverse that but Labour is targeting this for a gain. Councillor James Heffernan has a strong GAA background and parts of Limerick's suburbs are now in the constituency but this is a fairly conservative constituency and old habits die hard.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 1 (–1).

Longford Westmeath (4)

Three seats already look assured with the three main parties taking one each, but the fourth is virtually impossible to call. Both Fine Gael and Labour have their eyes on it. The lack of a Labour organisation in Longford could count against former PD Mae Sexton; if there is a wind behind Labour, she might just shade it over Fine Gael, but it's a toss of a coin.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).

Louth (5)

This has increased from a four seater but Ceann Comhairle Séamus Kirk is automatically returned and Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams are likely to take three of the remaining four. Green senator Mark Dearey may do better than the national trend but the final seat looks tailor-made for Labour's Ged Nash, particularly as Drogheda is now firmly inside Dublin's commuter belt.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 2 (n/c), Labour 1 (+1), SF 1 (n/c).

Mayo (5)

Fine Gael believes it can win four seats in Enda Kenny's home patch. It's a huge ask but it's not impossible. There is even talk of FF not winning any seats, though it often used to win four out of six when the county was divided in two. Labour has recruited former independent TD Jerry Cowley; he has profile but performed poorly in 2007. Independent Michael Kilcoyne, a poll-topper in Castlebar, is being hotly tipped but may be squeezed by the weight of support behind Kenny. Against that, he might get support from disaffected Fianna Fáil voters. If Labour's disappointing performance in Donegal South West last week reflects its support along the western seaboard, it might just fall short here.

Prediction: FG 3 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Independent (+1).

Meath East (3)

Fianna Fáil will lose one seat here and faces a struggle not to lose its second as well. Senator Dominic Hannigan should be strong enough to take a seat and could top the poll. With a strong ticket, FG could take two but FF should just hang on for one.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (+1).

Meath West (3)

Fianna Fáil is tipped to lose a seat here, particularly as Johnny Brady has lost a chunk of his base into Meath East. Either Fine Gael, Labour or Sinn Féin will pick up the final seat. It could be FG but this is commuter-belt territory and Labour got 4,000 votes here in the locals. If it can get another 1,500 votes then the seat is in play but don't rule out SF.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (+1).

Roscommon-South Leitrim (3)

Labour is putting in a big push here with poll-topping councillor John Kelly in what is traditionally a wasteland for the party. But Fianna Fáil should hold its one seat and it's difficult to see either Fine Gael TD losing out. If Labour wins here, it will win everywhere. The Donegal South West by-election result suggests it's a long shot.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (+1).

Sligo-North Leitrim (3)

One FF seat will go here and possibly two. Labour won a seat here in 1992 and could be in with a shout but a FG gain looks more likely.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 1 (–1).

Tipperary North (3)

MEP Alan Kelly will win a seat for Labour. Michael Lowry may not be safe but he should hold on, leaving Fianna Fáil – Michael Smith (son of the former minister) rather than sitting TD Máire Hoctor – and FG's Noel Coonan battling it out for the final seat. The addition of a chunk of south Offaly into the constituency could swing it for Fianna Fáil but it will be tight and in a bad day for FF, this could go.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 0 (–1), Labour 1 (+1), Independent 1 (n/c).

Tipperary South (3)

Fianna Fáil will lose one of its two seats. Fine Gael's Tom Hayes looks rock-solid but Labour senator Phil Prendergast may be beaten for third seat by former TD Séamus Healy of the Workers Unemployed Action Group, who polled big in last year's locals.

Prediction: FG 1 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Independent 1 (+1).

Waterford (4)

Again, Fianna Fáil will drop a seat but Labour's base is heavily concentrated in the city and while Brian O'Shea is rock-solid, Fine Gael or an independent look far more likely to gain here.

Prediction: FG 2 (+1), FF 1 (–1), Labour 1 (n/c).

Wexford (5)

There are two certain seats here for Fine Gael, one for Fianna Fáil and one for Labour's Brendan Howlin. All three parties will have their eye on the fifth seat, with FF the marginal favourite. Howlin's vote is heavily concentrated in Wexford town, leaving open the possibility of a candidate from the north of the constituency – such as councillor Pat Cody who won a seat in the Enniscorthy ward – to tap into Labour's potential strength in commuter belt areas such as Gorey (although that is where FG's Michael D'Arcy is very strong).

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 2 (n/c), Labour 1 (n/c).

Wicklow (5)

Fianna Fáil will drop a seat here from its 2007 showing but should hold one, although it could be Arklow councillor Pat Fitzgerald rather than minister Dick Roche. Labour should win two here regardless of the tensions in the organisation and Fine Gael will hold its two, which suggests former FF man Joe Behan could miss out.

Prediction: FG 2 (n/c), FF 1 (–1), Labour 2 (+1).