Friday 24 March 2017

Roscommon - South Leitrim: Kelly takes on Ming the Merciless

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

LABOUR is fighting to win its first ever seat in Roscommon-South Leitrim and one of its biggest obstacles is a pro-cannabis campaigner who calls himself 'Ming the Merciless'.

Its chosen candidate is John Kelly, a Leeds United-supporting community welfare officer, who performed strongly as an independent in the last general election.

He said his job with the HSE had never been so chaotic and stressful due to the recession.

"You can't help someone who's in full-time employment and yet I see them in greater need than some people in full-time unemployment. I know people who hadn't a penny left at the end of their working week," he said.

But in the three-seater constituency, he is up against the colourful independent councillor Luke 'Ming the Merciless' Flanagan. He was canvassing in Ballinamore in Leitrim yesterday and talking about his plans to get the people of the constituency to drink more local beer.

He said there was €14.5m of beer sold in pubs locally every year -- yet that only included around 8,000 of the 160,000 pints produced in a brewery in Roscommon town. He also wants to get the constituency's €52m annual tourism revenue closer to Galway's €430m earnings.

But for his part, Mr Kelly secured two pledges from Labour's Eamon Gilmore when he joined Labour last year.

The first was that Labour would provide alternative bogs for turf-cutters forced to stop by an EU habitats directive and the second was that the party would not downgrade Roscommon Hospital.

Hospital

The hospital is a big issue for all parties in the race, with a dedicated hospital action candidate. Fine Gael has also declared that it will oppose the HSE's plans to replace its 24-hour A&E service with an 8am to 8pm service. Its two sitting TDs, Denis Naughten and Frank Feighan, are seen as likely to retain their seats.

Fianna Fail was dealt a blow by the retirement of junior minister Michael Finneran and there was further chaos when his expected replacement, Cllr Rachel Doherty, pulled out of the selection convention last week. That was because a direction from headquarters to have just one candidate was over-ruled, with Cllr Gerry Kilrane (Leitrim) and Cllr Ivan Connaughton (Roscommon) selected instead.

Sinn Fein's candidate is Cllr Martin Kenny, who will hope to pick up significant support in his native Leitrim.





CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

Cllr Gerry Kilrane

Cllr Ivan Connaughton

FINE GAEL

Denis Naughten TD

Frank Feighan TD

LABOUR

Cllr John Kelly

SINN FEIN

Cllr Martin Kenny

GREEN PARTY

Gareth McDaid

INDEPENDENTS

Cllr Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan

John McDermott (Roscommon

Hospital Action Committee)

Last time out in 2007

Fine Gael achieved one of its big successes of the general election by taking two out of three seats through Denis Naughten and new TD Frank Feighan.

Fianna Fail’s Michael Finneran held on to his seat

But Leitrim lost its only TD in the Dail when Fianna Fail’s John Ellis failed to get elected.



THE NUMBERS

SEATS 3

ELECTORATE 63,567

VOTERS PER TD 21,189



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