The Rest of Leinster
In golfing parlance, the penultimate day of a major championship is known as “moving day”. At this stage, many of the contestants have been discarded and the big players are jostling for position to decide the final rankings.
Over the next couple of days, the public will make up their minds about Election 2016 and will undoubtedly make fools of all the pundits and muppets attempting to apply logic to a popularity contest.
As we are now entering the final straight we’ll dispense with our usual efforts at in-depth constituency analysis and will endeavour to pick out a few interesting points about the remaining constituencies.
Offaly is a new 3 seat constituency. The county is newly divorced from Laois and hastily coupled with about 11,000 people from the old Tipperary North constituency to make up the numbers. This is traditionally strong Fianna Fáil country and the party is in the hunt to claim two seats in what could be its most impressive result in this General Election.
There’s a strong likelihood that the three electoral areas in the county could each return one TD. Barry Cowen from the Tullamore area is a certainty, as is Marcela Corcoran Kennedy for Fine Gael. She is a native of the Birr area in the south of the county.
There’s a lot of competition in the south including Cllr. John Leahy of Renua and Sinn Féin’s Cllr. Carol Nolan. Independent Joe Hannigan is running from a north Tipperary base.
He topped the poll in the 2014 Local Elections in Nenagh and reports indicate that he is making a big impression amongst those in north Tipp who feel disenfranchised by the unnatural constituency boundary.
He’ll struggle to add votes from Offaly but if he can leverage support from his GAA connections he may last longer than many of the contenders in south Offaly.
However, the third seat should go to the east of the constituency where there are only two significant candidates. Independent Alliance member Cllr. John Foley is one. He’s a former Fianna Fáil councillor who fell out with the party in 2011, narrowly failing to win a seat as an independent in the Laois-Offaly 5 seater last time round.
Foley has a good profile across the constituency and this may be enough to hold off a challenge from former Cllr. Eddie Fitzpatrick of Fianna Fáil for the third seat.
Watch out for: If the momentum shifts behind Fianna Fáil then two seats are there for the taking.
Our Prediction: Barry Cowen (Fianna Fáil), Marcela Corcoran Kennedy (Fine Gael) and John Foley (Independent)
This is a five-seat constituency covering two counties which remain unaltered by the constituency commission. They made their recommendations to the former Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan – and this just so happens to be his former constituency when he was still a member of the Dáil.
The rule of thumb in this constituency is that candidates from Carlow generally run around with a chip on their shoulder seeking votes from their neighbours otherwise “Kilkenny will take all the seats”. The role of saviour of Carlow will fall to Fine Gael TD Pat Deering who should hold his seat with some ease.
His party colleague from rural Kilkenny John Paul Phelan will similarly hold his seat. Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness will top the poll and will also be joined by his frenemy Bobby Aylward. The feud between the Aylward and McGuinness camps in Fianna Fáil is no longer as intense as during the
The feud between the Aylward and McGuinness camps in Fianna Fáil is no longer as intense as during the heyday of Liam Aylward but there is enough frisson remaining to return two seats in one of FF’s strongest constituencies.
The fifth and final seat will come down to a battle between Labour Minister for State, Ann Phelan (who won’t have helped herself by getting badly rattled and walking out of a live debate on local radio) and Sinn Féin councillor Kathleen Funcheon.
Honourable mention should also go to Renua’s Patrick McKee who performed admirably in the bye-election last year to replace Phil Hogan, but he’ll struggle to make the same impression now that the formidable McGuiness will be claiming the lion’s share of votes in Kilkenny City.
Watch out for: If the election doesn’t go well for Fianna Fáil expect the first shots in a leadership race to be fired from Kilkenny City.
Our prediction: John McGuinness (Fianna Fáil), John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael), Pat Deering (Fine Gael), Bobby Aylward (Fianna Fáil) , Kathleen Funcheon (Sinn Féin)
They say it’s the old dog for the hard road and in the face of the tsunami that appears to be bearing down on Labour candidates, Emmet Stagg can be relied on to once again hold the seat he first won in 1987. He will be joined by fellow septuagenarian – Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkin.
The poll topper is likely to be the impressive Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats. The interest in this constituency will be the internal battle within Fianna Fáil for the seat they should claim. Two relative newcomers Cllr. James Lawless and Cllr. Frank O’Rourke will fight it out for this seat. Geography benefits Lawless and it is our call that he will take this seat.
Our prediction: Catherine Murphy (Social Democrats), Bernard Durkan (Fine Gael), James Lawless (Fianna Fáil) and Emmet Stag (Labour)
Three seat Kildare South has lost some territory to Laois but is likely to return a similar result as 2011 albeit with a slight change in personal. Martin Heyden of Fine Gael should be comfortably elected.
Mark Wall of Labour is running to hold a seat his father first won in 1997. He is a popular councillor in his own right and one of the few Labour councillors to be elected on the first count in the local elections. However, he may be affected by the loss of Monasterevin to the Laois constituency.
Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this constituency is once again the internal battle within Fianna Fáil. Cllr. Fiona O’Loughlin is undoubtedly a beneficiary of the gender quota legislation as its doubtful Fianna Fáil strategists would have risked a second candidate in this constituency otherwise. She is a formidable operator and may well be able to unseat her running mate – sitting TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Watch out for: A huge internal battle within Fianna Fáil for one guaranteed seat. If the polls keep going their current direction for FF and Labour this could result in an unexpected second seat.
Our prediction: Martin Heydon (Fine Gael), Mark Wall (Labour), and Fiona O’Loughlin (Fianna Fáil)
This four-seater is also untouched since the last election. Westmeath has a much bigger population and in all likelihood will return 3 of the 4 TDs. Eccentric Fine Gael TD James Bannon will continue to be the flagbearer for this constituency.
Willie Penrose has the safest Labour seat in the country and will be returned to the next Dáil. Penrose is a native of Ballynacargy – a small village with less than 300 population about 10 miles from Mullingar.
Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy is also a native of this village and this is indeed the exception that proves the rule of geography being a critical factor in the study of elections. Troy is also a safe bet to hold his seat though a bitter internal row over candidate selection has killed off any hopes of a second seat for Fianna Fáil in the constituency.
The battle for the final seat will take place in Athlone. It will be between Gabrielle McFadden of Fine Gael and Independent councillor Kevin Boxer Moran. McFadden won the seat in a 2014 bye-election caused by the death of her sister Nicky. Moran is another former Fianna Fáil member seeking better returns as an independent.
He has a strong presence in the community and was to the fore supporting residents affected by the recent Shannon flooding.
Watch out for: The self-proclaimed Queen Mother of Westmeath, Mary O’Rourke looking to dominate RTE’s election coverage.
Our prediction: Robert Troy (Fianna Fáil), James Bannon (Fine Gael), Willie Penrose (Labour) and Kevin Boxer Moran (Independent Alliance).