#GE16 Guide to Louth: Champagne on ice for a Sinn Féin two seater certainty…

Louth

LouthCurrent TDs

Fergus O’Dowd TD (Fine Gael), Peter Fitzpatrick TD (Fine Gael), Gerry Adams TD (Sinn Féin), Minister of State Ged Nash TD (Labour), Seamus Kirk TD (Fianna Fáil)*   

* Was automatically returned in 2011 as the outgoing Ceann Comhairle

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 5

Main Towns:

Drogheda – population 38,578

Dundalk – population 37,816

Ardee – population, 4,927

Candidates of interest: 

  • Fergus O’Dowd TD, Fine Gael (Drogheda)
  • Cllr. Imelda Munster, Sinn Féin (Drogheda)
  • Ms. Emma Coffey, Fianna Fáil (Drogheda)
  • Minister of State Ged Nash TD, Labour (Drogheda)
  • Mr. Michael O’Dowd, Renua (Drogheda)
  • Cllr. Kevin Callan, Independent Alliance (Drogheda)
  • Cllr. Maeve Yore, Independent Alliance (Dundalk South)
  • Peter Fitzpatrick TD, Fine Gael (Dundalk area)
  • Gerry Adams TD, Sinn Féin (Dundalk)
  • Cllr. Declan Breathnach, Fianna Fail (Dundalk South)
  • Senator Mary Moran, Labour (Dundalk area)
  • Cllr. Mark Dearey, Green Party (Dundalk area)

The smallest county in Ireland has a high population density.  Along with the addition of part of the former Meath East in 2011, that caused this constituency to grow to a 5 seater. Fianna Fáil’s Seamus Kirk got a free pass that day as outgoing Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House to those of you more used to Westminster watching). This year will be the first time that 5 seats are up for grabs here.

Despite its small size the county is dominated by two towns Dundalk to the north and Drogheda to the south, with little love transferred between the two, politically. Historically Dundalk tended to have greater Dáil representation than Drogheda but recent population changes and the addition of the Drogheda hinterland actually in county Meath may see Drogheda having the upper hand on this occasion. Poor Ardee in the middle is the forgotten child, having not sent a representative to Dáil Eireann since the 70s.

From our ivory tower this pair of muppets are tempted to take the easy route and just call it as a relatively straight forward 2 seats to Sinn Féin, 2 seats to the current Government and the final seat to Fianna Fáil for old time’s sake.  However we’ve set a higher target for ourselves and at the considerable risk of setting ourselves up for likely ridicule we’ll attempt to actually call the 5 seats.

Sinn Féin’s success is easy to predict. The party achieved over 30% of the vote in the 2014 local elections and took 10 seats. It has chosen the impressive Imelda Munster, a poll topper in the Drogheda area to accompany Gerry Adams on the ticket. Since his move into southern politics, Adams has set up home (probably not the most accurate term) in Dundalk.

The party have a geographically well balanced ticket, have a strong track record in the constituency, especially since Arthur Morgan was first elected to the Dáil in 2002. Regular attempts to discredit Adams in the eyes of the Irish electorate are unlikely to have too much impact this close to the border and with his X factor appeal, the securing of 2 seats in this constituency should be a formality.

For a change it is the Fine Gael selection process which made news headlines in recent months. Peter Fitzpatrick from Dundalk is a first time TD, better known in GAA circles as manager of the Louth county football cruelly deprived of a Leinster title in 2010. Fitzpatrick played brinksmanship with Fine Gael party strategists by declaring that he wouldn’t run unless the party adopted a two candidate strategy.

He showed commendable political skills to stoutly defend his interests. The party backed down much to the dismay of Ardee councillor, Delores Minogue. Cllr. Minogue felt she had been promised an opportunity, particularly with the party struggling to meet gender quotas nationally. Fergus O’Dowd is also saddling up for another run from his Drogheda base.

There had been much speculation that he would retire after he was relieved of his role as Junior Minister for the New Era project in 2014. Interestingly O’Dowd’s brother Michael is running in the constituency for Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party. This may impact on Fergus’s vote a little but it’s unlikely to be the definitive factor in deciding his fate.

Labour have a strong tradition in the county particularly in the Drogheda area. Unusually it is running two candidates in the constituency. Senator Mary Moran’s role in reality is to try provide some transfers from Dundalk back to her colleague Ged Nash. Nash will seek to capitalise on his profile as a Minister of State and a strong personal vote to hold the seat for Labour.

If he does it will probably be at the expense of Fine Gael’s O’Dowd following an intense local battle. With Labour polling so poorly nationally however, unless the election campaign brings a significant pickup in their fortunes this seat will be lost.

Historically, Louth has been a rich hunting ground for Fianna Fáil with the party consistently returning 2 out of 4 TDs from the 80s through to 2011. This feat was achieved even though both of its flagbearers Dermot Ahern and Seamus Kirk were from the northern side of the constituency.

Fianna Fáil has chosen Cllr. Declan Breathnach (from South Dundalk) and Ms. Emma Coffee (Drogheda based though originally from Dundalk) as its nominees. This appears quite a weak ticket and there must be some nervousness within the party following a very poor local elections here (5 council seats won out of the 30 available). 

Breathnach ran in 2011 and was the weaker of FFs two candidates on that occasion. Fianna Fáil has seen its strength in urban areas decline drastically over the past 20 years and will struggle for votes in urban Dundalk and Drogheda.

Their second candidate Emma Coffey is a political newcomer and while geography may dictate that a southern based candidate should be better positioned, Coffey’s inexperience coupled with the party’s weakness in Drogheda (only one council seat out of 10 won) means that she’s probably running behind Breathnach at this point. This is one constituency where a solid national election campaign might save a vulnerable seat.

While a number of small party and independent candidates have declared its Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance which provides the most interest. Cllr. Kevin Callan, who rather unusually, defected from Fine Gael over the water charges issue is unlikely to challenge for a seat. However Maeve Yore from near Dundalk looks like a strong challenger.

As a campaigner on education, childcare and children’s’ rights she performed very well in the 2014 local elections. Her issues should play well in a constituency with many stressed parents are engaging in daily commutes to Dublin for work. If she can get ahead of a local challenge from Fianna Fáil’s Declan Breathnach then she may prove quite transfer friendly and hard to catch.

Watch out for:  Celebrations in Sinn Féin with a historic second seat. A battle between Labour and Fine Gael in Drogheda. Fianna Fáil anxiously looking over its shoulder trying to avert a disaster. No woman has ever been elected in Louth. There may be two on this occasion.

Our Prediction:  Adams (Sinn Féin), Munster (Sinn Féin), Fitzpatrick (Fine Gael), O’Dowd (Fine Gael) and Yore (Independent).  And yes we know that this goes against our geographic rule of thumb!

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  • Robin Keogh

    Excellent analysis! You are back in my good books here. I am a Shinner and a little nervous about calling a second seat for sure but with FF in such a mess in the constituency it will probably come to pass, please God. FF ‘the Republican Party ‘ … ehem *cough* are struggling here, partly for the reasons u outline but alsi because Mehall Martin has alienated the SF vote and damaged transfer possibilities. Many are hoping that border constituencies like Louth might produce such a result to send Martin into retirement.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Yore has a chance but I’d say Mark Dearey has a better one, especially if Nash doesn’t make it (I think he’ll hang on, if not then Labour are in for a Lib Dem style wipeout).

  • mickfealty

    Your concern is a tad contrived there Robin, but congratulations on getting in a party press office talking point in.

    FF have a number of issues, and not least scrumming in the same waters as Gerry. The other is they haven’t run a competitive candidate in a Dail election since 2007. D Ahern stepped down and Kirk took a bye ball in 2011.

    That’s lot of lost ground to make up in one election. Candidate selection may seen as the problem. They’ll need a good national campaign to float odd boats like this one.

    Some push back on Twitter for omitting mention of the Green candidate Mark Deary who is currently on better odds than Yore and perhaps deserving of a mention. Nash is getting good money too.

  • Robin Keogh

    You are digging for info there Mick so i wont bite. Your faux cynicism however lets u down.

  • CatholicLeft

    I think Labour are looking at a Lib Dem style rout. I am no fan of Sinn Fein, but have no doubt they’ll win two seats here, it is the last seat that is interesting. If FF can’t get a seat, where is their recovery?