Barry hot favourite to grab seat at fourth attempt in Cork North Central
Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30
Anti-Austerity Alliance challenger Councillor Mick Barry believes water charges and austerity policies will prove the defining issues of General Election 2016.
He was 1,700 votes off taking a seat in Cork North Central in 2011, but local opinion polls have indicated his support has soared since then.
Cllr Barry ran under the United Left Alliance (ULA) banner in 2011 and, despite predictions he might prove a dark horse for a Dáil berth, was ultimately eliminated after the seventh count.
Now, he is the hot favourite to exploit Labour's discomfort after a high-profile role in Cork's anti-austerity and, in particular, anti-water charge campaigns over the past five years.
Few have been as high-profile at Cork protests over austerity policies since 2008.
Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) officials believe that Cllr Barry is finally poised to reap his reward.
"The polls I have seen so far are certainly very encouraging, but you just don't know," he said.
"The only poll that matters is the one on election day and a lot can happen between now and then."
However, the statistics bode well for the councillor who was once jailed for his role in the anti-bin charge campaign.
He contested his first General Election in Cork North Central in 2002 and garnered a meagre 936 votes. In the 2007 General Election, he pushed his vote up to 1,700 and, by the 2011 election, it had soared to 4,803.
Even political opponents acknowledge that the AAA official is a formidable constituency worker.
Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher and Sinn Féin's Jonathan O'Brien are likely to take the first two seats, with Dara Murphy, a high-profile minister and former Lord Mayor, further expected to hold for Fine Gael.
There will then be a dog-fight of epic proportions for the fourth and final seat between Labour's veteran TD and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch, Cllr Barry and Sinn Féin's second candidate, Councillor Thomas Gould.
Labour will be heavily dependent on a good transfer from Europe Minister Dara Murphy, but it remains to be seen just how many votes he will be able to offer his Coalition partners. Labour will also be praying for a much better result than it had in the 2014 Local Government elections, when it failed to return a single councillor to Cork City Council as its vote collapsed. It was the first time in history the party failed to get a councillor in City Hall.
But Ms Lynch, who lost her Dáil seat in 1997 and then won it back in 2002, has vowed to prove the early opinion polls wrong.
She also boasts a very loyal party organisation.
Councillors Barry and Gould can both count on the prospect of heavy transfers from a number of left-wing candidates likely to exit the field as the hunt for the final seat intensifies.
Sinn Féin will have to manage its vote extremely carefully while also hoping Jonathan O'Brien has sufficient transfers for his running mate. However, Sinn Féin remain quietly confident.
PREDICTION: One Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael, one Sinn Féin and one for the AAA.