Sunday 23 July 2017

Wicklow: Youth to fore as FG launches three-pronged attack

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

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.



CANDIDATES

FIANNA FAIL

Dick Roche TD

Cllr Pat Fitzgerald

FINE GAEL

Andrew Doyle TD

Billy Timmins TD

Cllr Simon Harris

LABOUR

Anne Ferris

Cllr Conal Kavanagh

Cllr Tom Fortune

SINN FEIN

Cllr John Brady

GREEN PARTY

Niall Byrne

INDEPENDENTS

Joe Behan TD

Cllr Peter Dempsey

Cllr Pat Kavanagh

Stephen Donnelly

Thomas Clarke

Gerry Kinsella

Robert Kearns





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.



THE NUMBERS

SEATS 5

ELECTORATE 93,776

VOTERS PER TD 18,755

Irish Independent

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