Wednesday 16 August 2017

Louth: Dearey undaunted by falling support for Greens

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

UNDAUNTED by his time in the Seanad propping up an unpopular government, Green Party senator Mark Dearey is desperately seeking to join the big political league of the Dail.

With major players Dermot Ahern (FF) and Arthur Morgan (SF) bowing out and Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk automatically returned, there are 27,000 votes in play.

And Mr Dearey believes he is in contention for the last seat -- even if that means pulling his vote up from 7.5pc in 2007 to over 10pc at a time when the Greens are languishing at the bottom of opinion polls.

The party risks losing all six seats and failing to elect any of its three senators -- bringing it dangerously close to the fate of the Progressive Democrats.

"I'd be lying to you if I said it hasn't occupied some of our thoughts but we've had to postpone that conversation and have postponed it internally," he said.

"People are fighting to win, as I am, not just to put up a good show but to be in the scrap for the last seat. That's what I'm doing."

Meath East has been dragged into the Louth constituency under a redraw of the boundaries, leaving voters there to deal with "a whole load of characters from Louth and one from Belfast", said Mr Dearey in reference to the newly arrived Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

The Dundalk-based senator is hoping to play on the need to have a Dundalk-based TD in the traditional stronghold of Dermot Ahern, with Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd emphasising his Drogheda credentials. But standing in the way of Mr Dearey for Dundalk votes is Mr Adams.

Only in recent years has Dundalk lost its "hard man tag" and successfully softened-up its image, according to Mr Dearey.

"What I worry about with Adams, if he's elected, is him being seen as the spokesperson for the town," he said.

But while he has his hang-ups with Sinn Fein, locals have their hang-ups about the Greens' role in ushering through a series of austere budgets.

And having given up his Louth county council seat in February 2010 to enter the Seanad, he is directly accountable for the decisions by the Greens in government. Some past supporters have vowed never to vote for him again.

Support is being "tested", he said before insisting that support in general is holding up.

Kingmakers

But compared with 2007 when the Green Party entered the general election as potential kingmakers because of their rising support, they are now attracting just 2pc or 3pc support levels.

"I've no choice but to try and generate that buoyancy within my own team, within myself, and within the people we reach and hopefully create a sense of commitment to the area," said Mr Dearey.

Local wisdom dictates that Fine Gael's frontbench spokesman Fergus O'Dowd will top the poll, ahead of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams.

CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

Senator James Carroll

Cllr Declan Breathnach

FINE GAEL

Fergus O’Dowd TD

Peter Fitzpatrick

LABOUR

Cllr Gerard Nash

Mary Moran

SINN FEIN

Gerry Adams

GREEN PARTY

Senator Mark Dearey

INDEPENDENT

Thomas Clare

Cllr Frank Godfrey

Gerry Crilly

David Bradley

Robert Glynn

Luke Martin

Fred Matthews

Robin Wilson

THE NUMBERS

? SEATS 5

?ELECTORATE 98,568

?VOTERS PER TD 19,713

Last time out

? Seamus Kirk (FF) topped the poll after he and Dermot Ahern (FF) pulled off impeccable vote management.

? Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness failed to win a seat, leaving Fergus O’Dowd to retain the party’s single seat.

? Sinn Fein's Arthur Morgan took the last seat on the sixth and final count.

Irish Independent

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