Friday 9 December 2016

National demands, local concerns: six to watch

Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30

Simon Harris, Junior Finance Minister
Simon Harris, Junior Finance Minister
Jan O'Sullivan, Labour TD
Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil. Photo: Tom Burke
Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin. Photo: Tom Burke
Padraig MacLochlainn

Simon Harris, in 2011 the Dáil's new and youngest TD, got to propose Enda Kenny for office as Taoiseach. By now he is Junior Finance Minister, increasingly supportive of his boss Michael Noonan, and often defending the Government with his slick, fast-talking style.

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The third of three Fine Gael TDs returned in Wicklow last time, he could well be a poll-topper this time. But he must also deliver locally for the party in order to assure a first-string job should Fine Gael be returned to Government. Much is expected of him in this campaign.

Jan O'Sullivan of Labour arrived at Leinster House in 1993 as a Senator and a long-time political associate of the late Jim Kemmy. There is no doubt that this vastly-experienced politician faces a struggle to hold on in four-seat Limerick City.

But she must also front up for her beleaguered party, arguing that, against the odds, it delivered school building and refurbishment during its term in office. Education is big with would-be Labour voters.

Labour activists argue that this is a good story well worth telling with some enthusiasm and vigour. They will also want to see her field nationally.

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil's dogged finance spokesman, has to face up to Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who is the cornerstone support of Fine Gael arguments that it has put the economy back on track.

Fianna Fáil will look to the chartered accountant to challenge Government on the detail of promises of tax cuts, spending increases and debt repayment. But he also has the tightest of local battles in Cork South Central.

This is a five-seater reduced to four and all competitors are household names locally and nationally. All in all, no great pressure here either!

Sinn Féin activists have many constituency contests to watch with keen interest. Perhaps keenest of all is the new merged five-seat Donegal constituency, where the party already has two high-profile deputies, Pearse Doherty and Pádraig MacLochlainn.

Both are talented Dáil performers and proven vote-getters.

Doherty has worked hard as finance spokesman. Now they face the task of copper-fastening their party's hold on Donegal, once shared by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They must show that talk of delivering a third seat is not a longshot. But if Cllr Gary Doherty joins the outgoing duo, bonfires will blaze for days.

Watch also for the ubiquitous and versatile AN Other. There is no cop-out involved here. At the time of writing, we don't have a name or names.

Almost all general elections have thrown up surprise winners, who during the campaign captured their local voters' imagination, and won their support in unexpected numbers. Several times, these surprise local winners also gained national notoriety.

This in part explains why so many diverse Independent candidates field in increasing numbers in a triumph of hope over political reality. Take a random flick back over elections past.

In the 1980s, there was Dublin Independent Tony Gregory. The 1990s brought Clare Labour TD Moosajee Bhamjee and Independent Jackie Healy-Rae.

Irish Independent

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