Saturday 3 December 2016

FG leadership pretenders all fall short on home front

Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30

Simon Coveney Photo: Arthur Carron Photography
Simon Coveney Photo: Arthur Carron Photography

Joe Kemmy, the brother of the late Labour Party and Independent TD Jim Kemmy, long had the reputation of being the best tallyman in the country. He had a great capacity to call the final seat at a count in Limerick from transfers while others were still trying to figure out the first count.

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Jerry Buttimer has taken up that mantle in recent years. From watching a few boxes of votes being opened in Cork city and a few of the commuter-belt suburbs, the Fine Gael TD can accurately predict the national outcome of a referendum about three minutes into a count.

Next Saturday morning, Mr Buttimer will have a personal call to make on the fate of his own seat.

Dropping from five to four seats, Cork South-Central was always going to be dramatic. One from the existing cohort of high-profile TDs, Micheál Martin, Simon Coveney, Michael McGrath, Ciarán Lynch and Mr Buttimer was going to lose. And that was before the added threat from Sinn Féin and Independents.

Martin, McGrath and Coveney were regarded as dead certs, barring a quirk of fate.

The local elections saw Labour wiped out in the constituency, so Lynch, who did sterling work on the Banking Inquiry, was put on notice.

The locals suggested there was enough of a left-wing vote for a Dáil seat to be taken.

Mr Buttimer getting elected was already a big ask. He was severely disadvantaged by the redraw, which saw him lose his home base of Bishopstown and its environs.

He too has made his mark on the abortion legislation and same-sex marriage referendum.

Fine Gael's plan was to boost Mr Buttimer by keeping Mr Coveney out of 40,000 houses in the city and dividing the suburbs of Douglas, Blackrock and Rochestown. On this Millward Brown poll, the votes simply are not there for Fine Gael.

Mr Coveney will join fellow pretender contenders, Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald, in failing that ultimate test of leadership: getting your running mate elected. Mr Varadkar hasn't a hope of winning a second seat in Dublin West; Mr Fitzgerald's fellow TD Derek Keating will lose in Dublin Mid-West.

Victory for Sinn Féin in Cork South-Central would be sweet for the party.

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is from Togher in the city, but represents Carrigaline-Ballincollig on Cork County Council, having taken 2,500 votes in the locals.

Mr Ó Laoghaire has emerged from the chasing pack as a genuine contender. The result in Cork South-Central is all over - bar the voting...

Irish Independent

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