Thursday 30 March 2017

Faces on the poster: Six to watch

Fine Gael's Maura Hopkins
Fine Gael's Maura Hopkins
Kate O'Connell
Denise Mitchell
Brid Smith
Lisa Chambers
Mary Butler

We look at six female candidates who could make the breakthrough in the forthcoming general election.

MAURA HOPKINS  FG ROSCOMMON

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The 31-year-old occupational therapist and councillor from Ballaghderreen is one of the great young hopes of Fine Gael, and appeared to be anointed by the party when she introduced Enda Kenny at the recent Ard Fheis. The party won two of the three seats in this constituency in the last election, but Denis Naughten left to become an Independent over the local hospitals issue, and Frank Feighan stepped down.

Her party did not do well in local elections in 2014, but Hopkins managed to win a seat. She is fancied to take the last seat here after Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice.

KATE O'CONNELL FG DUBLIN BAY SOUTH

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Mum-of-three and a businesswoman, Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell is hopeful of making her mark in the highly competitive Dublin Bay South.

She will be hoping to woo well-heeled voters in this FG stronghold. A founding member of Rathgar Business Association, she runs two pharmacies with her husband in the constituency.

She was elected to Dublin City Council last time out in 2014, despite the tide going out for the government parties.

But the four-seater will be a hard one to crack.

MARY BUTLER FF WATERFORD

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If they are to be in a strong position after the next election, the Soldiers of Destiny will have to win in Waterford, where the councillor is the sole standard Bearer.

Butler, who has worked part-time in a jewellery shop, won a place on Waterford City and County Council on her electoral debut.

She has stated that her ambition does not end with a Dáil seat, and she has expressed an interest in becoming Minister for Transport in the future. She may be fighting for the final seat with the local Fine Gael minister Paudie Coffey.

LISA CHAMBERS FF MAYO

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The young barrister is an experienced campaigner, having run at the last general election, when the tide was going out for Fianna Fáil.

If it is a good day for her party, the councillor should have a fighting chance of winning a second seat for her party, with Dara Calleary likely to be a shoo-in. She comes from a Castlebar base, which was once considered Flynn country. She is expected to be fighting for the final seat with Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin.

DENISE MITCHELL SF DUBLIN BAY NORTH

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Originally from Coolock, the councillor has built up her support base and was heavily involved in the campaign against water charges.

As a rising force in the area, Sinn Féin has enough support to win a seat here having secured 21pc in local elections. Mitchell's main rival could even be a second SF candidate Mícheál Mac Donncha.

BRÍD SMITH AAA-PBP DUBLIN SOUTH CENTRAL

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The activist who is a fixture on many protests, including those over the water charges, is considered a good bet for a seat in one of the most left-wing constituencies in the country. Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Independent Joan Collins, and Labour's Eric Byrne are TDs here, and all are running again. With Labour on a downward spiral, Smith could knock out Byrne. She took 23,875 votes in the European elections in 2014.

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