Monday 24 July 2017

Dublin South-West: Popular TD faces fight to hold seat

Fianna Fail TD Charlie O'Connor canvasses yesterday in Greenhills, Co Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fianna Fail TD Charlie O'Connor canvasses yesterday in Greenhills, Co Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE debate at Tallaght Stadium on Sunday night was whether Hooperman, the Shamrock Rovers mascot, or Charlie O'Connor was better known among the fans from the area.

The Fianna Fail TD for Dublin South-West has mentioned his political base so often, he's branded in Leinster House as 'Charlie O'Connor from Tallaght'.

But the popular TD knows his problem is the Fianna Fail brand, which is jeopardising his seat.

"I get the sense people know me and there is a lot of goodwill towards me. I am a Fianna Fail TD and that's the way it is. It's on the leaflet," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr O'Connor claims to be the most low profile of TDs in a constituency he shares with stars, Labour's Pat Rabbitte, Fine Gael's Brian Hayes and his Fianna Fail colleague Conor Lenihan.

He says the danger with the current debate about electing high-profile national figures is only the wealthy will be able to afford to get elected.

"I don't think our founders intended that for the Dail."

The 64-year-old says TDs must come from all walks to life to be truly representative.

"No less than Pat Rabbitte said a while ago the Dail is made up of all different people.

"If the economists and celebrities want to put themselves up, I have no difficulty about that. Some of the celebrities haven't been that successful and where they were, they didn't stick it out," he says.

Besides, Mr O'Connor says he has made a national contribution, through Dail speeches and Oireachtas committees. An internet search of his record reveals he has spoken in 200 debates in the past year. "Even I was astonished by that," he adds.

Sinn Fein's Sean Crowe, Labour's Eamonn Maloney and Socialist Mick Murphy are chasing his seat hard -- and maybe even an unlikely challenge from Fine Gael's Cait Keane if that party is heading towards an overall majority.

Mr O'Connor accepts Fianna Fail will only win one seat in the constituency -- at best.

After years of claiming he holds the most marginal seat in the Dail, Mr O'Connor is feeling the pressure.

He does hold a trump card in the shape of his mentor Chris Flood, the former minister and strategist who masterminded his win against the odds on the last two occasions.

But Mr O'Connor is not getting into an argument on whether he can fend off Mr Lenihan.

"I hope he is going to vote for me. I look forward to receiving his number one on the basis of the work I'm doing," he replies cheekily.



CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

Conor Lenihan TD

Charlie O’Connor TD

FINE GAEL

Brian Hayes TD

Cait Keane

LABOUR

Pat Rabbitte TD

Eamonn Maloney

GREEN PARTY

Francis Noel Duffy

SINN FEIN

Sean Crowe

INDEPENDENT

Ray Kelly

Last time out

Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes wins his seat back while Sinn Fein’s Sean Crowe loses out

Fianna Fail’s Charlie O’Connor holds on with party colleague Conor Lenihan and Labour’s Pat Rabbitte.



THE NUMBERS

SEATS 4

ELECTORATE 70,273

VOTERS PER TD 17,568

Irish Independent

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