Thursday 29 June 2017

Kerry South: Former running mate poses threat to O'Donoghue

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

HE'S the Independent candidate who could upset two well- established political machines in Kerry South.

Cllr Tom Fleming, who only broke away from Fianna Fail in recent weeks, is regarded as a serious threat to his former party colleague John O'Donoghue and the Healy-Rae dynasty.

Michael Healy-Rae is looking to hold on to the seat vacated by his father Jackie, but a recent opinion poll showed Mr Fleming hoovering up Fianna Fail and Healy-Rae votes and taking a seat.

Mr Fleming was Mr O'Donoghue's running mate in the last two general elections, but quit FF at the start of last month. He insists his decision had nothing to do with the party looking to run only one candidate this time out.

"I had issues with government decisions, and the social and economic aspects of the Budget," Mr Fleming says.

Mr Fleming claims he is getting "a very good response from the public", and a recent 'Red C' poll backs up his assertion.

He is emphatic that "I have totally disconnected myself from anything to do with Fianna Fail."

But Mr Fleming is reluctant to discuss whether the row over Mr O'Donoghue's expenses claims from his time as a cabinet minister and Ceann Comhairle are having an impact in the constituency.

"Personalities do not come into it with me," he says.

But, when pressed, he concedes the expenses could be "symptomatic" of problems with the wider political system.

"People are venting their anger on cronyism and the whole mismanagement of funding in the political system."

A number of FF supporters have left the party to canvass for Mr Fleming.

Fine Gael's Tom Sheahan should hold the seat he won in 2007, the first FG seat win in the constituency in 18 years. His running mate, Cllr Brendan Griffin, will be also be fighting for a seat.

Labour's Marie Moloney will also be in the hunt but the main battle will be between Michael Healy-Rae, nicknamed 'Dolly', Mr O'Donoghue and Mr Fleming.

But they need to be wary of opinion polls.

As a failed FG candidate once said: "There are a hell of a lot of liars in south Kerry."

CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

John O’Donoghue TD

FINE GAEL

Tom Sheahan TD

Cllr Brendan Griffin

LABOUR

Cllr Marie Moloney

GREEN PARTY

Oonagh Comerford

INDEPENDENTS

Cllr Michael Healy-Rae

Cllr Tom Fleming

Cllr Michael Gleeson

Dermot Finn

Richard Behal

Last time out

> Fianna Fail’s John O’Donoghue romped home with 9,128 first preference votes.

> Tom Sheahan took a seat for FG for the first time in 20 years.

> Independent Jackie Healy-Rae edged out long-term Labour TD Breeda Moynihan-Cronin on the sixth count.

THE NUMBERS

> SEATS 3

> ELECTORATE 54,371

> VOTERS PER TD 18,123

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