Laois-Offaly: SF targeting 'jewel in FF's crown'
IN every general election, there are individual results that stick in the memory for encapsulating the moment.
Fine Gael's Lucinda Creighton taking out PD leader Michael McDowell in 2007 epitomised the rejuvenation of one party and the demise of another.
If Sinn Fein can win a seat at Fianna Fail's expense in Laois-Offaly, Taoiseach Brian Cowen's heartland, that result will reverberate across the system.
Sinn Fein candidate Brian Stanley describes the constituency as "the jewel in Fianna Fail's crown".
He knows it won't be easy to break the stranglehold Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have on the constituency, which has only been intermittently interrupted.
The 53-year-old reckons there'll be two Fine Gael and two Fianna Fail TDs elected, with the last seat up for grabs. "It would be significant. It has always been three-two," he says.
Labour's John Whelan should be the favourite to take a left-wing seat, but internal fighting has put the focus on Mr Stanley instead. "We are getting some Labour votes because of the mayhem in Labour," he said.
As the constituency straddles two counties, there are always doubts over the ability of single candidates attracting votes on both sides.
Although he has been building up his local base in Portlaoise for the past 12 years, Mr Stanley says this election is about national issues. "I have never seen an election where parochialism was as little a factor. It's clicked in with people, it's a bigger picture," he adds.
"The big thing is they want to hear where you stand on national issues -- the economy, jobs, banking."
Mr Stanley defends Sinn Fein's economic policies from criticism on a national level, but says it only comes up on doorsteps from "hardcore Fianna Fail supporters".
"Outside of that, not at all. Charlie Flanagan's party is talking about burning bondholders, too. We have set out what we would do with a bank resolution scheme. People have really cottoned on."
Mr Stanley is married with two children and is also a grandfather. The former carer has been involved in the Republican movement for the past 30 years, including the hunger strike campaigns.
"I'm in the hunt and I am going to do my best at it. It is going to be a fight," he said. He's right on that front.
Fianna Fail's ticket of Barry Cowen, the Taoiseach's brother, along with junior minister John Moloney and Sean Fleming will take a seat and possibly a second. A third looks a bridge too far, but Fine Gael has a well-balanced line-up of four candidates: Charlie Flanagan, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, Liam Quinn and John Moran.
And watch out for Independent Eddie Fitzpatrick and former Fianna Fail candidate John Foley.
John Moloney TD
Sean Fleming TD
Charlie Flanagan TD
John Foley, Liam Dumpleton, John Leahy, Eddie Fitzpatrick, Rotimi Adebari, John Boland, John Bracken, Michael Pat Cox, James Fanning, Fergus McDonnell
Last time out
Brian Cowen topped poll with largest vote in country.
FG’s Charlie Flanagan won back seat from PD Tom Parlon.
FF’s John Moloney and Sean Fleming and Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright also returned.
VOTERS PER TD 21,262
Mary O’Rourke TD
Peter Kelly TD
Cllr Robert Troy
James Bannon TD
Senator Nicky McFadden
Cllr Peter Burke
Willie Penrose TD
Cllr Mae Sexton
Cllr Paul Hogan
Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran
David D’Arcy (New Vision)
Last time out
First election in the new constituency of Longford- Westmeath.
Labour’s Willie Penrose put in a strong performance, topping the poll with 9,692 votes.
Fianna Fail’s Mary O’Rourke won back her seat at the expense of Donie Cassidy, while Fine Gael Cllr James Bannon got elected to the Dail on his first attempt.
VOTERS PER TD 20,992