Thursday 29 September 2016

Laois

Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fail (1), Sinn Fein (1).

Published 18/01/2016 | 11:46

On the surface this should be one of the most straightforward and least exciting counts in the country.

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By separating from Offaly to form its own constituency Laois was left with three seats that are already occupied by a minster and two frontbench spokesmen.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan (FG) will be battling with Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming to top the poll.

Both will want to achieve that feat but even on a bad day can expect to be elected.

Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley should take the third seat.

His only real left of field challenge will come from Labour Party senator John Whelan. The last time Labour held a seat in Laois was 1969 but Whelan put in an impression showing in Laois-Offaly in 2011 and has maintained his profile since.

Among the big issues on the doorsteps will be the operation of Portlaoise hospital and rural crime – neither of which will play particularly well for Flanagan or Whelan.

However a small part of Kildare South has been annexed into Laois for population purposes meaning there are new votes up for grabs.

Whelan grew up and has strong connections in the Monasterevin area so the redrawing of the constituency is likely to suit him.

Labour also defied the odds on Laois during their local election meltdown when its candidate, Noel Tuohy, took a seat on the council.

All of that will give Whelan some hope of mounting a challenge but he will need the overall mood music around the Labour Party to improve by Election Day.

Flanagan’s running mate Thomasina Connell might be one to watch for the future but her presence on the ticket is primarily to help fulfil Fine Gael’s gender quota.

Fianna Fail had nominated councillor Catherine Fitzgerald to run alongside Fleming but she withdrew.

Green Party candidate Sinead Moore has a good track record on local issues but won’t feature.

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