This constituency remains untouched by the Constituency Commission. Currently there are two Fine Gael TDs, one Labour TD and one from Fianna Fáil. Geographically the four incumbents are distributed one from the west, one from Ennis and two from the east which reflects the population distribution of the county. This county has traditionally been a Fianna Fáil stronghold up and until 2011 had returned at least two and sometimes three FF seats. The 2014 Local Elections saw Fianna Fáil regain first place from Fine Gael in terms of overall support in the county and with a fair wind they would have some hope for two seats in the county probably at the expense of Labour’s Michael McNamara.
However the introduction of two strong independent candidates Dr. Michael Harty and Ann Norton has thrown the cat among the pigeons. Dr. Harty, running with the strong slogan of “No Doctor No Village”, is resonating strongly with rural dwellers and looks likely to take a seat from his west Clare base. As Pat Breen is a very well established TD in west Clare it may be that this election will return two seats from the west. While Sinn Féin are talking up the chances of their candidate Noeleen Moran it is difficult to see that three western TDs could be elected. Timmy Dooley from Fianna Fáil is likely to top the poll and represent the east of the county. The final seat will surely come from Ennis and the benefit of incumbency is likely to see Fine Gael’s Joe Carey see off the challenge of the less well known Clare Colleran Murphy of Fianna Fáil and independent Ann Norton. In this traditionally conservative constituency two independent seats would be unlikely.
Watch out for: Will “No Doctor No Village” catch the public imagination and potentially become an issue for the formation of the next government.
Our prediction: Timmy Dooley (Fianna Fáil), Pat Breen (Fine Gael), Dr. Michael Harty (Independent), Joe Carey (Fine Gael)
Cork East is a geographically reliable constituency almost religiously returning two TDs from the northern half (Fermoy, Mallow and Mitchelstown) and two from the south (Cobh, Midleton and Youghal). For 30 years Fianna Fáil’s Ned O’Keeffe in the north and Michael Ahern in the south held two seats amid an almost constant state of civil war. Now the rivalry is extending to the next generation with Barbara Ahern and Cllr. Kevin O’Keeffe carrying the mantle for the family. O’Keeffe is the more established candidate and is favourite to take a seat on this occasion with both Labour’s Sean Sherlock and Fine Gael’s Tom Barry susceptible to his challenge.
These two will be involved in a massive scrap for the second northern seat. Sherlock is the more established and has the advantage of ministerial position but public opinion is behind Fine Gael. The local election results would suggest that Labour should be able to hold on to their seat but Fine Gael are running a third candidate in the shape of former Labour councillor Noel McCarthy who was responsible for half of Labour’s local election vote in the constituency.
Running three candidates increases the risk of the vote being split but it looks like it was decided it is better to have him in the party rather than taking votes as an independent. In the south Fine Gael’s David Stanton looks likely to top the poll. In 2011 Sinn Fein’s Sandra McLellan was the main beneficiary of the Fianna Fáil collapse to secure a seat. Since then there’s been well publicised internal difficulties within the local organisation and McLellan decided (or perhaps was made to decide) not to stand after claiming that she had been a victim of bullying from within her own party. Despite the somewhat undignified row Sinn Féin has consolidated a solid presence in the constituency and its candidate Pat Buckley is expected to hold off a challenge from former Sinn Féin councillor Cllr. Kieran McCarthy and will benefit from the lack of a stronger challenger in the south of the constituency.
Watch out for: Given more of the high profile candidates are based in the north of the constituency tallies may indicate that the traditional north/ south equal divide may not apply on this occasion.
Our prediction: David Stanton (Fine Gael), Kevin O’Keeffe (Fianna Fáil), Sean Sherlock (Labour) and Par Buckley (Sinn Féin)
Cork North West
Since its creation in 1981 the constituency of Cork North West has only ever returned representatives of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Despite the addition of Ballincollig in 2011 and an extra 5,000 people from Cork North Central on this occasion, this constituency still retains a distinctly rural character. Fianna Fáil are running Cllr. Aindrias Moynihan, from the west of the constituency and the son of former TD Donal, as well as TD Michael Moynihan. The incumbent is far more likely to be returned. The main danger to Fine Gael’s Michael Creed and Aine Collins comes from independent councillor and current Mayor of County Cork, John Paul O’Shea. Geography does not favour O’Shea as his council area is divided between three Dáil constituencies and his home base in Lombardstown is at the very eastern extremity of the constituency.
Our prediction: Michael Moynihan (Fianna Fáil), Michael Creed (Fine Gael) and Aine Collins (Fine Gael)
Cork North Central
This constituency retains its four seats but there is some change in geography with the addition of over 17,000 people from around Bishopstown (formerly in Cork South Central) and the loss of 5,000 to Cork North West. While the constituency is now more urban it still retains a strong rural element. Sinn Fein’s Jonathon O’Brien will perform very strongly and the party is endeavouring to win two seats in this four seater. Cllr. Thomas Gould is likely fall just short at this attempt. Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher is also assured of re-election and has come increasingly to the fore as FF’s health spokesperson and director of elections. The current Government deputies Darragh Murphy of Fine Gael and Minister Kathleen Lynch of Labour are destined to secure only one seat. Both candidates have difficult obstacles to overcome and even though he may struggle in the working class areas, Murphy of Fine Gael looks the safer bet. Cllr. Mick Barry of the Anti-Austerity Alliance has developed a strong following and high profile by virtue of his leadership of the anti-water charges campaign. He is well placed to take the remaining seat as Labour weakens.
Our prediction: Jonathan O’Brien (Sinn Fein), Billy Kelleher (Fianna Fáil), Darragh Murphy (Fine Gael) and Mick Barry (AAA-PBP)
The new five seat County Kerry constituency looked to be fairly predictable until the last minute announcement by the Healy-Rae faction that established TD Michael would be joined on the ticket by his Killarney based brother, Danny. This was a shrewd move by the Healy-Raes. Michael was always a shoe-in and his image as an anti-establishment figure would take a bit of a battering if he gained the highest vote in the entire country as was likely when he ran on his own. The Healy-Rae “strategy” of asking people in Killarney and the east to vote No 1. Danny is very likely to succeed as the largest town in the county should elect a TD. Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris is facing a battle to hold his seat. He has a solid vote in the north of the county but the party’s failure to penetrate into the south, coupled with the vibrancy and appeal of the Healy-Rae roadshow marching across the constituency, will put him in danger. Sinn Féin may rue not facilitating a changing of the guard to Martin Ferris’s more glamorous and media savvy daughter Toiréasa. Geography is also against Ferris as he faces strong competition in the north. Fianna Fáil’s John Brassil who is based near Listowel is strongly fancied to gain a seat in this county which has in the past always been solid for Fianna Fáil. Minister Jimmy Deenihan of Fine Gael is well established in the constituency and will draw party support from all corners. Labour’s Arthur Spring should benefit from having a strong base in the town of Tralee and a good Labour Party tradition in the south of the county. However he has failed to make a strong impression in the Dáil and if this is repeated locally then he too will be victim of the tide going out on Labour. Fine Gael’s Brendan Griffin is a shrewd constituency operator and his mid Kerry position may help him in yet another constituency where the current coalition partners will be battling for one seat.
Watch out for: The colour of the Healy-Raes
Our prediction: Michael Healy-Rae (Independent), Jimmy Deenihan (Fine Gael), John Brassil (Fianna Fáil), Danny Healy-Rae (Independent) and Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael)
Labour’s Ciara Conway has shown the signs of being a one term TD for quite some time and her seat is almost certain destined to be taken by Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane. With sitting Independent Alliance TD John Halligan destined to consolidate his seat and John Deasy’s semi-independent Fine Gael family seat being virtually guaranteed, the interest in this constituency lies in Fianna Fáil Mary Butler challenging Fine Gael Minister of State Paudie Coffey for the last seat. This seat could go either way and will likely be an indicator for whether Michael Martin or Enda Kenny will be considered the winner of General Election 2016.
Watch out for: Signs of a Fianna Fáil revival in a traditional stronghold
Our prediction: John Halligan (Independent Alliance), David Cullinane (Sinn Féin), John Deasy (Fine Gael) and Mary Butler (Fianna Fáil)
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.