#GE16 Guide to Dún Laoghaire: Hanafin to play the ‘hare’ for Labour and Fine Gael candidates

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 18.55.41Dun Laoghaire

Current TDs

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD (Fine Gael), Richard Boyd Barrett TD (People Before Profit Alliance), Eamon Gilmore TD (Labour), Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett TD* (Fine Gael)

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3*   

*Deputy Sean Barrett TD as out-going Ceann Comhairle will be automatically returned to Leinster House thus reducing this to a three seater.

Main Areas:

Dun Laoghaire

Blackrock

Killiney

Loughlinstown

Ballybrack

Candidates of interest:

Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, Fine Gael (Dun Laoghaire)

Cllr. Maria Bailey, Fine Gael (Killiney Shankill)

Cllr. Cormac Devlin, Fianna Fáil  (Dun Laoghaire)

Cllr. Mary Hanafin, Fianna Fáil (Blackrock)

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett TD, People Before Profit Alliance (Dun Laoghaire)

Cllr. Carrie Smyth, Labour (Killiney Shankill)

Cllr. Shane O’Brien Sinn Féin (Killiney Shankill)

Mr. Frank Cronin, Renua

Ms. Carol Hunt, Independent Alliance (Blackrock)

Cllr. Ossian Smyth, Green Party (Dun Laoghaire)

Dun Laoghaire is largely a middle class constituency though there are solid working class areas in Ballybrack and Loughlinstown. Its borders have expanded in this election with the addition of parts of Leopardstown, Cabinteely, Stillorgin, Foxrock and Carrickmines which are coming back into the constituency after a brief time exiled to Dublin South.

The constituency has a long history of high profile candidates and of TDs holding ministerial office, going back to the days when Fine Gael Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave represented the area.

Candidate geography has much less impact in an urban constituency than in any rural one. With no local papers or radio station the real measure of a candidate’s profile can be measured in column inches gained in the Irish Times and sound bites on RTE’s Morning Ireland.

This constituency has always been a happy hunting ground for Fine Gael. In 2011 it returned 2 Fine Gael TDs who between them secured just over 35% of the vote. On this occasion, Sean Barrett will be returned automatically as Ceann Comhairle and Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor is joined on the ticket by Cllr. Maria Bailey.

The party is assured of one seat and will be working hard for the last seat. Bailey is of more traditional party stock than the former PD Mitchell O’Connor. Her father is also a councillor in the constituency and is well-known in GAA circles – so there may well be an internal challenge for the first Fine Gael seat. But a hard fought battle could prove useful for the last seat.

Whatever the outcome the denizens of the leafy suburbs may feel some disappointment that neither of these candidates are likely to achieve high ministerial office for Dun Laoghaire in the next government.

Richard Boyd Barrett of the People before Profit Alliance scraped into the 4th seat in 2011 following a mammoth tussle with Ivana Bacik of Labour. He has kept a high profile in the past five years and is regularly to been seen on TV and radio.

He is likely to fall some way short of the 25% needed to pass the quota but he should be significantly ahead of the other left wing/small party candidates and will benefit from anti-establishment transfers.

The weakness of the Labour ticket will also benefit him. While he may not pass the quota until late in the count, his seat is assured. This means that the final seat will be a battle between the establishment parties.

The Labour party will have been disappointed to have just secured one seat in 2011 despite having then party leader Eamon Gilmore joined by the high profile senator Ivana Bacik on the ticket. Between them they secured over 30% of the vote and Bacik came within 150 votes of overtaking Richard Boyd Barrett before being eliminated in the penultimate count.

Her elimination paved the way for Boyd-Barrett to overtake Fianna Fáil’s Mary Hanafin for the final seat. Without the benefit of former Tánaiste Gilmore in the constituency vote levels will drop, though the party’s flag bearer Cllr. Carrie Smyth will expect to do better than the 13% the party achieved in the local elections. An improvement in the party’s fortunes will put her firmly into the hunt for the last seat.

The Green Party’s Ossian Symth is one of just a dozen Green Party public representatives in the Republic. The Greens have previously been represented in the Dáil here by Ciaran Cuffe and while some recovery is likely, a seat in a three seat battle is an impossible task.

Sinn Féin did not contest this constituency in 2011 and is not going to make an impression in its middle class suburbia. Transfers from Cllr. Shane O’Brien will most likely help Richard Boyd Barret retain his seat

The Independent Alliance and Renua are also fielding candidates in the constituency. While journalist Carol Hunt of the Independent Alliance has a profile that will appeal here, it is difficult to see where enough votes will be garnered to get into contention.  Likewise Frank Cronin has a strong background in Irish business and media circles but it is unlikely to amount to more than a decent personal return. 

Fianna Fáil are becalmed in the low teens in opinion polls in Dublin. Its local election results in the constituency would give it little chance of securing a seat here but it has an ace up its sleeve with the one true household name in this election – former Minister Mary Hanafin.

Hanafin was a late entrant into the local elections and despite efforts of Fianna Fáil headquarters to prevent her standing in the Blackrock ward, her battle with her running-mate Kate Feeney caught national attention and saw both of them elected with a combined 25% of the vote – the party’s best performance in the capital.

Fianna Fáil will be hoping to repeat the trick in the coming months. While most people involved with the party would have stressed the desirability of a one candidate strategy, councillor Cormac Devlin was the choice of party members at convention and Hanafin had to be added to the ticket.

Her high profile and unique ability to garner national media publicity will increase her chances considerably.

Hanafin also knows that her message to middle Ireland that a possible Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael coalition is the only way to ensure a stable recovery and keep Sinn Féin from the levers of power will play well in her constituency. In early counts she is likely to be in third place.

Despite the complication of our single transferable vote system, it is proven time and time again that candidates who get into the frame on the first count generally hang in to take the seats.

Hanafin will hope that this rule of thumb holds in Dun Laoghaire, but unless her party’s fortunes improve during the course of the campaign she may not get far enough ahead and is likely to play the role of hare for the Labour and Fine Gael candidates coursing behind her.

Watch out for:  Irish Times editorials. National trends will undoubtedly influence the last seat. Expect to see scud missiles from Mary Hanafin aimed at her party leader and garnering the ensuing column inches.

Our Prediction:  Barrett (Fine Gael), Mitchell O’Connor (Fine Gael), Boyd-Barrett (PPP AAA) and Bailey (Fine Gael).

Statler and Waldorf are two former political party muppets who have 30 years’ experience in Irish politics.  They now specialise in providing analysis from the sidelines.

Living History 1968-74

A unique, once-in-a-lifetime 10-week course at Stranmillis University College Belfast featuring live, in-depth interviews with leading figures from this tumultuous era in Northern Ireland’s cultural and political history.

Live interviews with: Bernadette McAliskey, Austin Currie, Brid Rogers, Baroness Blood, Dennis Bradley, Baroness Paisley, Lord Kilclooney, Tim McGarry, Danny Morrison, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and others…

Find out more…