#GE16 Meath West: Strong FF council showing indicates Shane Cassells is for the Dail…

Meath WestMeath West

Current TDs

Minister for State, Damien English TD (Fine Gael), Ray Butler TD (Fine Gael), Peadar Tóibín TD (Sinn Féin)

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3

Main Areas:

  • Navan – population 28,559
  • Trim – population 8,268
  • Enfield – population 2,929
  • Athboy – population 2,397
  • Oldcastle – population 1,384

Candidates:

  • Minister for State, Damien English TD, Fine Gael (Navan area)
  • Ray Butler TD, Fine Gael (Trim area)
  • Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin (Navan area)
  • Tracy McElhinney, Labour (Trim area)
  • Cllr. Shane Cassells, Fianna Fáil (Navan area)
  • Seamus McMenamin, Green Party (Navan area)
  • Alan Lawes, Direct Democracy Ireland (Navan area)

This constituency was created for the 2007 General Election when County Meath was changed from one 5 seater into two 3 seat constituencies, due to the increase in population. The constituency includes a small part of Westmeath near Castlepollard and is dominated by the town of Navan. Trim is the second town and its hinterland on the Dublin commuter belt has a high population density.

It is one of the few constituencies unchanged by the most recent constituency boundary revision. In the normal course of events it would be expected that one of the constituency’s representative should come from the Trim area and at least one from Navan.

There’s four candidates in with a shout of taking the three seats here.  Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín will continue to grow the vote for his party. He has been a high profile TD and his pro-life and pro-enterprise stance resonates well with the public, if not always well within his own party. Tóibín has a very strong reputation locally and should top the poll.

Fine Gael have two sitting TDs in Meath East. In 2011 Damien English topped the poll and was elected for his third term in Dáil Éireann at the young age of 32. He was joined by a low-key councillor, Ray Butler from Trim. Butler’s geographic location benefitted him in seeing off the challenge of a Labour candidate from Navan and a high profile Fine Gael running mate, the glamorous Catherine Yore.

Since his election Butler has maintained a relatively low profile only coming to prominence following an altercation with some anti-austerity protesters last year. Given the large number of candidates in the Navan area it would appear that Butler is well situated geographically. However, Damien English is well established in the constituency.

English will have benefited from the additional profile of being a Minister of State. It would be a major surprise if English was not significantly stronger than his running mate. He should be comfortably elected, leaving Butler to fight for the last seat. 

The third and final seat in the constituency will boil down to a battle between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil is running Navan councillor Shane Cassells. Cassels has run for the Dáil on two previous occasions performing well in a 2005 bye-election and attaining about 9% of the vote in 2011, just behind his then running mate outgoing TD Johnny Brady.

On this occasion the party is wisely running one candidate though some strategists would have preferred that candidate to come from Trim the stronghold of former minister Noel Dempsey. 

The party has traditionally performed strongly in Meath and secured over 25% of the vote there in the local elections. A repeat performance will see it win a seat here.

In the battle of the also rans Dr. Seamus McMenamin a GP from Navan should perform credibly for the Green Party. While not in the hunt for a seat he may surprise some and will help the party in its quest to secure enough support to qualify for state support as a political party post-election.

Tracy McElhiney of the Labour Party lost her seat on the county council last year. She may benefit from the dearth of choice in her home town of Trim to improve her vote share but is not expected to come near contention at the end of count day.

This constituency eventually boils down to a comparison of apples and oranges. Geography versus party.  There is over a quota available for a candidate from the Trim area. Ray Butler of Fine Gael should be the main beneficiary of this. However, not all of these people will vote local.  Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will take the votes of their party faithful in Trim.

These two parties together secured over 40% of the Trim vote in the 2014 Local Elections. A youthful Damien English will also prove more attractive to young commuters living in the south of the county than his running mate. As a result Ray Butler will probably be in fourth place following the first count. There may not be enough transfers coming down the line to help him overtake Cassells.

Watch out for: Butler needs to take votes off his running mate English to stand any chance. The internal dynamics as Fine Gael attempt to share the vote may prove interesting.

Our Prediction:   Tóibín (Sinn Féin), English (Fine Gael) and Cassels (Fianna Fáil)

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  • Robin Keogh

    Perfect !

  • Conall D’arcy

    I don’t think that the anti-austerity protester scandal, alleged fraudulent festival invoices and court judgements will help Butler. He has also been noticeably absent from any public forums i.e. TV3’s People’s Debate held in his home town. My guess is that English will take a lot of his votes in the south of the county.