Fine Gael incumbent Butler faces serious challenge to keep seat
Published 16/02/2016 | 02:30
'I'm under no pressure at all," outgoing Fine Gael Meath West TD Ray Butler insists.
He faces a tough battle in a constituency where party colleague Damien English was promoted to junior minister and Fianna Fáil councillor Shane Cassells is breathing down their necks.
Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín is likely to top the poll.
That leaves the other three main contenders scrapping for the last two seats - and the constituency might not be big enough for two from Fine Gael.
Mr Butler (50) hasn't had an easy time of it with an anti-water-charge protest at his family home and office making national headlines in February 2015.
One woman protester outside his office claimed that she was hit by his car while Mr Butler insisted that the allegations were "completely unfounded".
The alleged incident was investigated by gardaí who sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It was reported that the strong indications were that Mr Butler would not be prosecuted. He says he has yet to hear back on the DPP's decision.
The episode - particularly the protest at his home - was upsetting for the TD and his family who were in the house at the time.
He says the issue of water charges is not coming up on the doorsteps in this campaign.
"The economy is the big issue now," he says, adding that the abolition of the USC - as promised by Fine Gael - "can't come soon enough".
Other issues in the area include rural crime and broadband provision.
Mr Butler, a father of four, is most proud of his work on behalf of people with disabilities over the last five years and the upgrading of St Joseph's Nursing Home in Trim.
He believes that geography will help him.
"The people of Trim and south Meath have had a TD since the beginning of the State. I've worked hard... the people will vote on the work I've done in the area," he says.
Navan-based Shane Cassells first ran for the Dáil in a by-election in the old Meath constituency in 2005, narrowly missing out to the late Shane McEntee of FG.
With the decision of Noel Dempsey not to contest the 2011 General Election, Cassells ran alongside Fianna Fáil TD Johnny Brady, landing almost 3,500 first-preference votes, not far behind his running mate, who lost his seat.
This year, Mr Cassells has his best chance of success in a decade - he was selected by Fianna Fáil at an early convention and is the party's only candidate in the constituency.
Mr Butler might just hang on to his seat but Fine Gael will need good vote management and a good day at the polls to do it.
Prediction: 1 SF, 2 FG (on a good day for FG).
FG Damien English TD, FG Ray Butler TD, LAB Tracy McElhinney, FF Shane Cassells, SF Peadar Toibin TD, IND Cllr Trevor Golden, GP Seamus McMenamin, DDI Alan Lawes.