Wicklow: Youth to fore as FG launches three-pronged attack
FINE Gael is carving up the expansive Wicklow constituency into three distinct areas in an epic bid to return two TDs and a rookie 24-year-old poll-topping councillor.
Simon Harris polled the highest number of first-preference votes of any first-time candidate in the country in the 2009 local elections and is now tasked with helping to secure three out of five seats for Fine Gael.
The new recruit is postering and canvassing the northern end of the constituency, while his political superiors Billy Timmins and Andrew Doyle are taking the western and eastern ends.
In a constituency that is home to two Fianna Fail seats, Fine Gael now has an ego-free strategy to unseat either junior minister Dick Roche or former Fianna Fail TD-turned-Independent Joe Behan.
Traditionally, three TDs have been elected from north Wicklow -- namely Mr Roche, Mr Behan and Labour's Liz McManus.
Mr Harris, who has been a high-profile disability rights campaigner since setting up the 'Wicklow Triple A Alliance' charity group at the age of 16, is adamant there is a third seat for Fine Gael in his northern end of the constituency.
He is Fine Gael's second youngest candidate and is one of the youngest runners in the country. During the local elections, Fianna Fail raised issues about his lack of experience and young age.
But he insists the country is now on the edge of a "generational shift".
Compared to Fine Gael's clear three-candidate strategy, Labour's bid to run three candidates appears less straight forward. Proven vote-getter and sitting TD Liz McManus is bowing out of politics, leaving two councillors and a former councillor to try and retain her seat and bid for another.
And with Mr Behan leaving Fianna Fail to become an Independent, and high-profile Fianna Fail councillor Pat Fitzgerald on the ticket, the electoral fate of Mr Roche is less than clear.
Dick Roche TD
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald
Andrew Doyle TD
Billy Timmins TD
Cllr Simon Harris
Cllr Conal Kavanagh
Cllr Tom Fortune
Cllr John Brady
Joe Behan TD
Cllr Peter Dempsey
Cllr Pat Kavanagh
Last time out in 2007
Fianna Fail’s Dick Roche topped the poll with 10,000 first preference votes.
The seat of Independent TD Mildred Fox was won by Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle.
Green Party councillor Deirdre de Burca failed to win a seat but was later appointed a senator.
VOTERS PER TD 18,755