Fine Gael (2) and Fianna Fail (1).
Always considered a constituency on the periphery given its geographic location, Cork South West traditionally attached enormous importance to infrastructural investment – roads, bridges, piers, telecommunications networks and flood defences – as a vital support for its economic development.
Over the space of two weeks last December, a host of west Cork communities were left devastated by floods as streams and rivers broke their banks following Storms Desmond and Frank.
Bandon became a national poster case for the ills of Ireland’s development system. Promised a defence scheme after disastrous floods in November 2009, interminable delays meant the scheme hadn’t even reached construction phase and, as a result, the town was left horribly vulnerable last December to floods which reached over four feet in depth throughout some town centre shops.
Construction work is now scheduled to commence in May 2016 – and traders warned they will withhold rates if there are any further delays. Few expected flooding to become a General Election 2016 issue but, from Bandon to Dunmanway and from Clonakilty to Skibbereen, protection of vulnerable communities from global warming and future flooding is now the hot topic on the
Cork South West is another constituency where Labour’s contrasting fortunes between 2011 and 2016 are likely to be put in sharp focus.
Michael McCarthy faces a grim battle to defend a seat which he won by just 600 votes from a Fianna Fail challenger five years ago. For the first time, Fianna Fail failed to elect a TD west of Bandon.
Fianna Fail, for their part, took hard decisions in terms of their candidate selection for 2016, ultimately resulting in long-time party stalwart Councillor Alan Coleman opting to run as an independent.
Councillor Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony will now fly the Fianna Fail banner but the key issue will be how strong a vote Councillor Coleman, the outgoing Mayor of Cork County, attracts as an independent. Councillor Michael Collins is also expected to perform strongly as an independent.
Another key issue will be the strength of the Sinn Fein vote where Rachel McCarthy is expected to poll extremely well.
However, Fine Gael’s electoral machine in west Cork was fine-tuned in the battles between Dr Garret Fitzgerald and Charles Haughey in the 1980s so there is quiet optimism that one seat will be comfortably held and the second Fine Gael candidate will be in at the death for the third and final seat.