Wednesday 28 September 2016

FF is fancied to win back a seat, while Murphy should be a shoo-in for Social Democrats

Published 11/02/2016 | 02:30

Labour’s Emmet Stagg is fighting hard to hold onto his seat
Labour’s Emmet Stagg is fighting hard to hold onto his seat

Kildare North was a bellwether of the national trend last time, with Fianna Fáil's vote going through the floor while Fine Gael, Labour and an Independent split the cake.

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If, as expected, it leads the national trend again, the outgoing Coalition's TDs will struggle to hold their three seats. Fianna Fáil should claw back one.

Two of the candidates fighting to retain their seats in Kildare North are over the age of 70 - but write them off at your peril. Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan and the Labour Party's Emmet Stagg are two of Leinster House's most experienced politicians and both have decided to give it at least one more go.

Durkan topped the poll in 2011 - the first time he did so in his 30 years as a TD - and his running mate Anthony Lawlor, from Kill, was also elected in a remarkable result for Fine Gael.

The duo still have a fighting chance of being returned but they will need to put in a huge campaign.

Their main challenge is coming from Fianna Fáil's James Lawless, based in Sallins and was newly elected to Kildare County Council in May 2014. Lawlor is rated as stronger than his party colleague, Frank O'Rourke from Cellbridge, who is also putting in a very energetic campaign.

Some suggest the contest between them may prove an interesting tussle in itself.

But the party must take care not to split the vote.

As a former minister for state, Emmet Stagg has a strong personal vote and has been a TD since 1987.

Labour got just 10pc in the local elections in Kildare but Stagg should hold on.

He said: "I'm canvassing since last November and the voters know me well. It's a big commuter constituency and people want stability.

"They know they'll get it with a return of the current Government."

As it stands, the safest seat in the constituency probably belongs to a TD who knows the feeling of losing her seat.

Catherine Murphy was first elected to the Dáil as an Independent in a 2005 by-election, lost her seat in the 2007 General Election, but won it back in 2011.

Her persistence and Dáil statements forced the Government to set up the Commission of Investigation into transactions at IBRC, including the sale of contracting firm Siteserv to a company owned by businessman Denis O'Brien.

Last year, she helped found and became a co-leader of the Social Democrats, placing herself in a position where she may be able to enter a coalition after the election.

This is one constituency where Sinn Féin has not made significant inroads. The party scored 10pc in the local elections, far behind its national standing, which will make the campaign difficult for Reada Cronin, who is a councillor from Maynooth.

Shane Fitzgerald, who stood here previously for the Green Party, is now fielding for Lucinda Creighton's Renua Ireland.

He is a former Leixlip town councillor and a businessman with a background in horticulture and farming.

This time, the Green Party will be represented by Maebh Ní Fhallúin, a former station manager at Raidió na Life who is also a health policy analyst.

She has a history of community involvement including with the GAA.

Brendan Young is an Independent candidate from Celbridge.

He is a teacher, who previously worked as a fitter, and is a member of Kildare County Council since May 2014.

Ashling Merriman, standing for Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit, is a nurses' aid who has worked in Naas Hospital.

Prediction: SD (1), FG (1), FF (1), LAB (1).

Kildare North

Candidates: 4 seats

FG Anthony Lawlor TD, FG Bernard Durkan TD, LAB Emmet Stagg TD, FF James Lawless, FF Frank O’Rourke, SF Reada Cronin, PBPA Ashling Merriman, R Shane Fitzgerald, SD Catherine Murphy TD, GP Maebh Ni Fhalluin, IND Brendan Young.

Irish Independent

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