Thursday 27 October 2016

Keaveney under pressure from Fianna Fáil running mate Rabbitte

Published 23/02/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil candidate Anne Rabbitte meets Portumna publican
Fergal Coghlan while canvassing. Photo: Andrew Downes
Fianna Fáil candidate Anne Rabbitte meets Portumna publican Fergal Coghlan while canvassing. Photo: Andrew Downes

Galway East has traditionally returned a Fianna Fáil TD but with the retirement of Michael Kitt and a divided view on one-time Labour TD Colm Keaveney, many are turning their attention to newcomer Anne Rabbitte.

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The Portumna-based councillor has been tipped as the party's best chance of taking a seat, despite having a sitting TD in Mr Keaveney. Ms Rabbitte dismisses any claims she has moved in on her running mate's turf, saying: "I feel I'm earning every inch of it."

"I would be very hopeful to get two seats. At the end of the day, Galway East needs my voice and needs me. This area has been forgotten for a number of years by all parties," she said.

The councillor says she is getting a positive reaction, especially from those who see her as "traditional Fianna Fáil".

The issue of her running mate Mr Keaveney is also coming up on the doorsteps. The TD was elected as a Labour candidate last time around before defecting to Fianna Fáil.

Questions remain as to how he will be received by the grassroots locally. "I get asked will he jump again, is he a jumper? But they also say he's a good spokesperson," says Ms Rabbitte.

Big issues for the area are flooding, waiting lists for cancer care, a lack of broadband and an overall feeling of abandonment by successive governments.

The constituency has undergone significant boundary changes, going from a four to a three-seater and losing 20,000 people to the new Roscommon Galway area.

The changes were particularly hard for Fine Gael's Paul Connaughton Jnr and Fianna Fáil stalwart Michael Kitt, who saw their support base badly hit. While Mr Connaughton, who entered the Dáil in the last election, has opted to run regardless, Mr Kitt has called time on a long political career as a result. Mr Connaughton, who has a strong family legacy locally, is joined on the Fine Gael ticket by fellow sitting TD Ciaran Cannon, who has been widely praised for his work during the flooding crisis which could result in a bump in votes.

Independent councillor Seán Canney, based in Tuam, is viewed as a serious contender for a seat. He has a strong support group across the region. He is up against Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins for the final seat.

Sinn Féin candidate Annemarie Roche, Independent councillor Michael 'Stroke' Fahy and Aengus Melia for DDI-NCM are also running.

Predictions: FF 1; FG 1; too close to call for last seat between Labour and Independent Sean Canney.

Irish Independent

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