Fine Gael (2), Fianna Fail (2)
CAN Labour TD Michael McNamara defy the expected national trend against his party and hold on?
Fianna Fáil efforts to win back a second seat depend on Deputy Timmy Dooley’s as yet unproven ability to “vote-share” and there will also be an interesting secondary battle between the two other Fianna Fáil candidates. Fine Gael have a big fight on their hands to hold the two seats, currently held by Joe Carey and Pat Breen.
Labour TDs have been scarce in Clare’s political history, McNamara’s win in the 2011 “Gilmore Gale” followed on from the win by Moosajee Bhamjee in the 1992 “Spring Tide.” Locally, McNamara has at times been styled locally as the “semi-detached Labour TD” and the big question now is whether he will be perceived as such at a time when his party’s fortunes are low.
Some believe McNamara marriage to Sarah Hillery, granddaughter of former President and Clare Fianna Fáil TD, Patrick Hillery, can help. Back in 2011 he was actually contesting against his future father-in-law, Dr John Hillery.
McNamara is not shy about his “semi-detached” Labour status. “I believe in the party’s policies. But my mandate is from the people of Clare and I vote according to that,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley will have a very strong vote. So, a big part of their challenge will be to “vote manage” as they field two candidates with strong personalities who are putting in huge campaigns. Ennis-based Cllr Clare Colleran-Molloy is a first-time councillor who comes from a large family based in Quin; while Michael “Malty” McDonagh is current Clare GAA Board chairman and a retired garda from Milltown Malbay.
There will be keen internal rivalry between the two outgoing Fine Gael incumbents, Pat Breen and Joe Carey, both of whom are close to the biggest population centre of Ennis. But they are both experienced campaigners and the party machine will be mobilised.
Sinn Féin will field Noeleen Moran from Ballyvaughan who impressed in the 2014 locals and almost took a council seat. The potential impact of community activist, Cllr Ann Norton, will be watched with interest.
From Barefield, Ms Norton runs Clare Crusaders therapy service for special needs children and could have a considerable vote with transfers impacting on the later seats. Many candidates were relieved to hear that former Independent TD, Cllr James Breen, is not standing.