Tuesday 28 March 2017

Cork North-Central: O'Brien on cusp of winning first seat

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

A MERE 268 votes went to Sinn Fein's Jonathan O'Brien on his first political outing 10 years ago, but the proven poll-topper is now on the cusp of a major general election win.

Since his failed political debut in 1999, the Sinn Fein councillor has won two local elections but fallen short in two general election bids.

This time, however, with sitting TDs Noel O'Flynn (Fianna Fail) and Bernard Allen (Fine Gael) bowing out of politics, the once predictable field is now less clear.

If Sinn Fein's ever-rising poll figures are to be translated on election day, securing a seat in Cork North-Central is a realistic prospect.

Co-opted on to Cork Co Council in 2000, the Farranree councillor has built his reputation on tackling issues around anti-social behaviour and opposing incineration and super-dumps.

This time out, the issues are national, as evidenced in his 'down the plughole' election literature which takes bankers and politicians to task.

"It's been a long road, a long process, but finally this election, hopefully, things are finally starting to pay off," he said.

Since his unsuccessful 2002 and 2007 bids, the attitude to Sinn Fein has transformed, and there is "no comparison" to 2011 perceptions, Mr O'Brien said.

Sinn Fein has become transfer friendly -- a massive requirement if it is to reach quotas. And with a Left Alliance candidate and two Labour candidates in the field, Sinn Fein believes it can attract transfers.

Communication

"In 1999 when I first stood, you got a first preference or you didn't get a vote. That's just the way it was," he said.

Despite major question marks about the practicality of their economic policies throughout the 2007 campaign, Mr O'Brien insisted the "substance" of the policies was correct, but the communication of them was "very poor".

"We've become much more media savvy in delivering our message," he said. And he insists poor media performances by party president Gerry Adams, exposing his lack of basic knowledge of economy policy, are not being raised on the doorsteps.

"It hasn't come up to be honest. Personally, I don't think Adams has been a hindrance. I think in performances he has done quite well," he says.

Observers say that with Fianna Fail reverting to a one-candidate strategy, Billy Kelleher should retain his seat, as will Labour's Kathleen Lynch.

The surprise exit of Mr O'Flynn and Mr Allen means two new faces will be elected to the Dail. Fine Gael's Cllr Pat Burton and Cllr Dara Murphy are tasked with trying to win two seats but Labour's John Gilroy and Mr O'Brien will figure in the battle for the last seats.



CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

Billy Kelleher, TD

FINE GAEL

Cllr Pat Burton

Cllr Dara Murphy

LABOUR

Kathleen Lynch TD

Cllr John Gilroy

SINN FEIN

Cllr Jonathan O’Brien

GREEN PARTY

Ken Walsh

INDEPENDENTS/ OTHERS

Cllr Mick Barry (Socialist Party)

Fergus O’Rourke (Ind)

Padraig O’Sullivan (Ind)

Cllr Ted Tynan (Workers’ Party)

Last time out in 2007

? Constituency reduced from a five-seater to a four-seater and returned two of the three Fianna Fail seats.

? Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher topped the poll, while the party’s rebel backbencher Noel O’Flynn squeaked in on the last seat.

? Fine Gael’s Bernard Allen and Labour’s Kathleen Lynch held on to their seats.



THE NUMBERS

?SEATS 4

?ELECTORATE 65,638

?VOTERS PER TD 16,409







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