Friday 9 December 2016

Wicklow

Fine Gael (2), Sinn Fein (1), Social Democrats (1). Billy Timmins of Renua Ireland and Fianna Fail's Pat Casey to fight it out for the final seat.

Published 19/01/2016 | 11:44

Wicklow was one of the big success stories for Fine Gael in the last general election. After three days and a mammoth 19th counts, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s party romped home with three seats through Andrew Doyle, Billy Timmins and Simon Harris.

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The other two seats went to Labour’s Anne Ferris and Independent candidate Stephen Donnelly, who made a name for himself as a commentator during the economic crash.

Five years on, the result of the forthcoming election is likely to be different but maybe not by much.

The first thing to point out is Fine Gael lost Mr Timmins during the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill and he is now competing as a Renua candidate.

The election will be a test of Mr Timmins’s personal brand which he will hope will return him to the Dáil after representing the people of Wicklow for almost 20 years as a Fine Gael TD.

He took the seat after his father Godfrey Timmins, who served as a TD for more than two decades, retired from politics in 1997.

Fine Gael is sure of a seat in Simon Harris, who entered the Dail as the youngest TD but soared to the dizzying heights of a junior ministry in the Department of Finance in less than three years.

Mr Harris is a skilled media performer and is often sent out to fight the Government’s corner during difficult situations. Many in the party tip the 29-year-old for a full cabinet role should Fine Gael return to power.

Andrew Doyle topped the polls last time round and along with Mr Timmins was one of the only candidates to reach a quota.  Mr Doyle is likely to return but may have to rely on the votes of Fine Gael’s third candidate Averil Cronin, and possibly Mr Harris’s surplus, to see him over the line.

Now a Social Democrat TD, Stephen Donnelly should be in with a shout to retain his seat thanks to his national profile. Mr Donnelly was a regular on current affairs shows during the financial crisis and secured a seat on the last count in 2011.

Having joined forces with two other households names – Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall – to form the Social Democrats it will be essential that Mr Donnelly returns to Leinster House to give the fledgling party credibility.

Locally, there are accusations he does not spend enough time on constituency issues but there also voters who admire his national political outlook.

Having narrowly missed out last time, Sinn Fein’s John Brady will hope the increase in national support for his party will see him land a seat.

Mr Brady topped the poll in his native Bray during the local elections and has steadily built his profile across the county since.

This has come at the expense of Labour’s Bray based TD Anne Ferris, who many see as the party’s moral backbone but she is likely to suffer due to the declining support for Tánaiste Joan Burton’s party.

Ms Ferris, a campaigning first-time TD, briefly lost the Labour whip over her decision to vote against the party on a bill seeking to allow abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Fianna Fail’s Pat Casey has a chance of a seat here too, especially if the party performs well nationally.

Over the years, there has generally been at least one Fianna Fail seat in Wicklow and the forthcoming election will show how far the party has come since its near collapse five years ago.

The other candidate to watch is former Fianna Fail councillor Joe Behan, who is now running as an Independent after quitting the party in 2008.

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