#GE16 Laois: A week out from close of nominations, this looks like an ‘as you were’…

GE16 LaoisLaois

Current TDs 

(The following were the Laois representatives elected in the Laois – Offaly constituency in 2011):

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD (Fine Gael), Sean Fleming TD (Fianna Fáil) Brian Stanley TD (Sinn Féin)

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3

Main areas:

  • Portlaoise – population 20,145
  • Portarlington – population 7,788
  • Mountmellick – population 4,735
  • Monasterevin (Co. Kildare) – population 3,710
  • Abbeyleix – population 1,827
  • Mountrath – population 1,661

The constituency redraw has divided the old five seat Laois – Offaly constituency and created two new three seat constituencies. This constituency now consists of the county of Laois with an additional population of 7,000 people from around the Monasterevin area in South Kildare. While Laois is a strongly rural constituency, one third of the population live in and around the town of Portlaoise and many people commute to Dublin every day work.

There’s a small field declared here. 


  • Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD, Fine Gael (Borris-in-Ossery/ Mountmellick area)
  • Thomasina Connell, Fine Gael (Graiguecullen/ Portarlington area)
  • Sean Fleming TD, Fianna Fáil (Graiguecullen/ Portarlington area)
  • Senator John Whelan, Labour (Portlaoise area)
  • Brian Stanley TD, Sinn Féin (Portlaoise area)
  • Sinead Moore, Green Party (Mulhuddart, Co. Dublin)

Most elections are won and lost in the white heat of campaigning door to door, over airwaves and in the media. Sometimes all the incumbent politicians, popular and having strong records of delivering for their constituents are all but assured of election before a single poster is erected. Almost never, are election strategies hatched in committee rooms responsible for ordaining the outcome of an election.

However this constituency may be a rare, though admittedly inadvertent, example of this phenomenon.

There are six candidates declared in the new Laois constituency to date, and after all the votes are counted in election 2016  both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are likely to regret that they haven’t made a better effort to source a higher profile second candidate. Even an ambitious and high profile independent could have made inroads. As things stand, it appears that three of the declared candidates are head and shoulders ahead of the rest.

For many years the old Laois Offaly constituency could be relied on to return 3 Fianna Fáil TDs and more often than not 2 Fine Gael ones. In the last 30 years before the last election there were only 2 changes to that setup.  One was to accommodate the brief political career of the high profile farm leader, Tom Parlon representing the Progressive Democrats.  The second was when Pat Gallagher was elected as part of Labour’s ‘Spring Tide’. 

There was another change in 2011 when Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley took a seat. In the most recent local elections 2 out of 3 voters in the county voted for either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

Fianna Fáil originally selected two candidates, however Councillor Catherine Fitzgerald subsequently withdrew leaving Deputy Sean Fleming all alone. Fleming, from the rural south east of the constituency will be comfortably elected for his fifth term.  Even on Fianna Fáil’s worst day the party will expect to get comfortably more than 25% of the votes – which is enough to pass the quota on the first count.

Fianna Fáil has struggled to develop a presence in Portlaoise Town in recent years and this lack of organisational effort is now impacting on the party’s ability to target an eminently achievable second seat.

Fine Gael have outgoing Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan as its TD in the area. Flanagan is another TD with over 20 years Dáil experience who should accumulate a quota on the first count. At least, Fine Gael have managed to find a running mate for the Minister. They’ve selected a newcomer, solicitor Thomasina Carroll.

Connell from the eastern part of the county was added to the election ticket last November amid suggestions that Fine Gael were adding weak female candidates mainly to comply with gender equality requirements. There has been little to suggest that Connell, who has spent much of her professional career in Dublin and Wicklow, is considered as a strong challenger for a seat.

Indeed, such is her low profile that Fine Gael haven’t even remembered to include her profile on their party website candidate page.

Given the traditional support levels enjoyed in this area by the historically dominant parties and the small field contesting this constituency, the lack of ambition in supporting serious running mates for their main candidates surely represents an opportunity lost for one of these parties to gain a second seat.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley is the likely beneficiary of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s conservative strategies. Stanley has not been a high profile TD nationally for the past five years. He was the fourth TD elected in the old 5 seat constituency with just 10.5% first preference votes.

In the most recent local election Sinn Féin in Laois secured just 2 county council seats with less than 13% of the vote. Sinn Féin has traditionally been stronger in Offaly, where it secured 17% in the locals. 

In the old 5 seat constituency Stanley benefitted from a basic Sinn Féin core vote across both counties. To get elected in a 3 seater the quota is 25% and in a five seat constituency 17%. Doubling their vote in 18 months is a difficult target to achieve, even with the progress Sinn Féin has made in recent times.

However Stanley has two major factors in his favour. Firstly he is the most established candidate in Portlaoise. This town and its environs should comfortably elect at least one TD. Long gone are the days then most of the Republicans in Portlaoise were locked up in the prison there.

These days the party has developed a strong record of community representation in the town ahead of the other main parties who have not been as visible in the urban areas. Second he is an incumbent TD with a good local profile and has worked on the ground the past five years.

All else being equal the sitting TD usually gets re-elected.

The only credible challenger to Sinn Féin at the moment is Labour Senator John Whelan. Whelan is a former newspaper editor in the area.  He was educated in Monasterevin and will benefit from this part of South Kildare with a solid Labour tradition moving into his constituency.  Whelan was a late convert to Labour politics.

He was parachuted into the party prior to the 2011 election much to the anger of local activists. While he performed reasonably well on that occasion he did not come close to taking a seat that should have been available following Fianna Fáil’s decline.

The ‘Gilmore Gale’ of 2011 never materialised in this constituency and unless Labour pick up significant momentum in the course of this election campaign, Whelan will not be able to catch Deputy Stanley even if a sizable number of voters in a conservative, rural constituency may wish to deny Sinn Féin the seat. 

Watch out for:  There’s a week for a celebrity candidate to parachute in before the close of nominations. Otherwise this constituency is likely to be done and dusted before a vote is cast.

Our Prediction:   Fleming (Fianna Fáil) Flanagan( Fine Gael) and Stanley (Sinn Féin)

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  • Robin Keogh

    Perfect again. Wicklow?

  • Stadler and Waldorf

    Think we’ve kept you waiting long enough. We’ll publish Wicklow early next week!

  • Stadler and Waldorf

    Its seems that Fine Gael HQ aren’t amongst our readership. Still no mention of Thomasina Connell on the finegael.ie/our-people/candidates/ page. Quite disrespectful to her as a candidate!

  • gerdel

    as a constituent a few points.
    1- Flanagan may have been originally from mountmellick, the last two times he ran for the local council(when tds could double job), his district was portlaoise area, hence the profile on him is incorrect.
    this is a dead duck of a constituency and will be 1-1-1…ff-sf-fg for a number of reasons which I will explain.
    ff: historically ff have had the majority or close to one in the county. if they were any bit ambitious they would have run 2. the fleming family are a dynasty job and like to control. originally about a year ago, a very strong council ff vote getter Jonjo Fennelly was muted as a second candidate. If Fennelly and Fleming had run on the ticket they would have hit 40% in the constituency as Fennelly would command many more Portlaoise votes than Fleming. The 40% would have only elected one ffer, the Flemings feared it would be a close call and blocked the entry of Fennelly.
    Instead a non event sweeper, fitzgerald, was selected as a second candidate. she quickly saw she had no chance and pulled out, leaving fleming with a free run to a safe seat…he tops the poll exceeding the quota on the first count.
    fg: Flanagan has never been a lumpy vote getter …last time with the wind in their sails fg should have given 3 out of 5 a fair run in the previous Laois / Offaly 5 seater…they produced a mediocre 2 seats…a bad performance, one of the few 5 seaters in 2011 with only 2 gov seats returned…..Flanagan will sail in nonetheless.
    sf: Stanley has done well to build his seat. laois is most certainly not fertile sf country..at the local elections in 2014, they won just 2 seats, one in portlaoise and one in portarlington, and it is safe to say that is their maximum for the foreseeable future.
    Stanley has commanded more of a personal support than a party vote. as has been mentioned in the constituency profile, portlaoise town was once pure ff gold, their key figures died away about ten years ago and Stanley has filled the void, and with portlaoise and portarlington getting many left leaning voters who have relocated from Dublin, the combination of Stanley on the ground and these new voters have helped sf. He is safe as houses in this election.
    lab: senator Whelan failed to win last time when he should have easily picked a seat for labour….he was the problem….he was a newspaper editor for years and a ff junkie….all of a sudden a couple of years before the last election, he divorced from ff and somehow jumped ship to labour. his failure to get elected in 2011 was down to the people ignoring a turncoat. Labour did gain their only seat at the local elections in 2014 in portlaoise, that win was down to the actual candidate who would have won on any ticket, and is not an indicator of a portlaoise town move to labour. Whelan will be a poor 4th, lose his senatorship, and then soon after disappear from politics.
    the one and only item that may have thrown this constituency election into the melting pot was if Portlaoise hospital(which is a mess) was to become a hot topic…an independent running on a “hospital ticket” may have won a seat, and either sf or fg would have been pressurised.
    in future if the ff brand begins to rebuild, be in no doubt this is one constituency that they will target big time to win 2 out of 3 seats….for now, no fun just a boring 3 seater.

  • Stadler and Waldorf

    They’ve included her now!.

  • Stadler and Waldorf

    Thanks for the insight. Would welcome views on any other constituencies from native constituents. (Particularly the ones we haven’t profiled yet)

  • Discuscutter

    Whelan was always more of a FF man than a Labour one, it is where his past political allegiance was but the offer to run came from Labour.

    He would have been the ideal candidate for FF in Portlaoise.