Fine Gael (2), Sinn Fein (1), Independent (1), and big battle between Brassil (FF) and Fleming (Ind).
Published 18/01/2016 | 12:54
Who will lose in this merger of two three-seat constituencies into one five-seater which leaves six TDs vying for five places?
Can Fianna Fáil overcome its legacy of local wars and re-gain a seat? Or, will Kerry voters continue their conviction that they already have, one if not two, “near-enough Fianna Fáil TDs” in the form of Independents Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming?
These are among the talking points in a very lively campaign as all these Kerry politicians adjust to “playing the full pitch” from end to end of the county. All the six outgoing deputies are standing again and Labour’s Arthur Spring is deemed most vulnerable with the tide against his party.
Independent Michael Healy-Rae, now head of a family dynasty known as “the house that Jackie built,” finds himself cited in the position no candidate wants – the 'safe seat'. Unsurprisingly, he utterly rejects that idea.
“The parties are trying to do that to us again. In the general election in 2002 my late father, Jackie, nearly lost his seat by 200 votes because the parties were saying he ‘safe’. I’ll never forget that and we never take the people for granted,” Healy Rae said.
Fine Gael strategists hope they can hold their outgoing two TDs with stalwart Jimmy Deenihan in Listowel spanning the north and Brendan Griffin working his way south from his base in Castlemaine. The party has added former Tralee Mayor, Grace O’Donnell, to up its presence in one of the bigger population centres.
Fianna Fáil is working to increase the profile of Cllr John Brassil further afield than his native Ballyheighue base to the north west. Cllr Norma Moriarty, a first-time councillor from Waterville teaching in Kenmare, also has her work cut out to build a profile in the North.
It helps both Independent TDs, Healy-Rae and Fleming that no strong candidate has emerged in the second major population centre of Killarney, as both of them are based nearby. Tom Fleming is vulnerable to his old Fianna Fáil council colleague, John Brassil. But as a man with 30 years direct experience of many campaigns Fleming is not to be underestimated.
Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris is trying to build in the south of the constituency where the party has been traditionally weak but continues to make inroads on the working class vote.
Labour’s Arthur Spring, is by agreement of almost everyone the sitting TD most in danger. He re-gained the Labour seat held for many years by his uncle, the former Tanaiste Dick Spring, and his grandfather Dan first took the seat in 1943.