Donegal North-East: Wipeout feared as FF reduced to one candidate
LAST time out, Fianna Fail had three sitting TDs seeking re-election.
But after only 18 months as a councillor, Charlie McConalogue surprisingly finds himself flying the flag alone for the party in Donegal North-East.
The dramatic transformation reflects the turmoil within the party, which leaves Fianna Fail in danger of having no seat there after the general election.
The FF line-up from the last election, which pulled in one in every two votes, is gone.
Dr Jim McDaid left the party and then retired.
After reuniting the party at the end of a 30-year split with the Blaney Independent Fianna Fail organisation, Niall Blaney suddenly dropped out of the race on the night of the convention last week, for personal reasons following his marital difficulties.
Senator Cecilia Keaveney wanted to run again, but the party opted for Mr McConalogue as the candidate from the Inishowen Peninsula.
But the 33-year-old farmer didn't ever think he would end up as the only candidate. "It's not the way we expected it to work out. It was a big shock at the convention. I certainly didn't expect to end up as the sole candidate," he says.
Given the faction fighting within the Fianna Fail family in north and east Donegal in the past, Mr McConalogue says there's a chance to unite the party.
"I don't see myself as being from any camp. I just want to work with everyone and represent the party," he said.
A UCD graduate of economics, politics and history, he was active in student politics and he also worked as political organiser for Fianna Fail headquarters.
Following the death of his father, Charlie, the eldest of six children, returned home to Carndonagh to run the family farm.
He emphasises that the big local issue is job creation -- not surprising when unemployment is up to 30pc in parts of the huge county.
As well as attracting industry, he says, the focus must be put on agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
The extension of broadband and development of the A5 dual carriageway from Derry to Aughnacloy, are also prominent.
The retention of health services at Letterkenny General Hospital features heavily.
"I don't think any Fianna Fail candidate is safe in this election. But I think its new young candidates the public are looking for and the Fianna Fail supporters are looking for," Mr McConalogue says.
After watching the party dominating the constituency for so long, Fianna Fail's opponents are ready to pounce on its decline.
The big challenge is coming from Sinn Fein's Padraig MacLochlainn, who is regarded as a virtual certainty to win a seat.
But Labour's Jimmy Harte and a number of Independents are also in contention.
Fine Gael's vote is also expected to be up, with sitting TD Joe McHugh joined by Cllr John Ryan.
Cllr Charlie McConalogue
Joe Mc Hugh TD
Cllr John Ryan
Cllr Ian McGarvey
Last time out
? Fianna Fail’s Jim McDaid and Niall Blaney win, ahead of party colleague Cecilia Keaveney
? Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh wins back a seat for the party.
? Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn puts in a strong showing.
? SEATS 3
? ELECTORATE 58,501
? VOTERS PER TD 19,500