Fianna Fail likely to lose one of its Meath West seats
Published 18/12/2010 | 05:00
Noel Dempsey's retirement leaves a massive gap for Fianna Fail in one of their strongest constituencies in the country, writes Fionnan Sheahan.
The loss of one of their two seats in Meath West would appear to be inevitable -- provided the opposition parties get their act together.
Labour is potentially the winner from his departure.
Fianna Fail took a massive 52pc of the vote in the last General Election when Meath was split in two for the first time due to the growth in population in the commuter belt.
Mr Dempsey and backbench TD Johnny Brady got almost 21,000 votes, easily taking the first and second seats.
When Mr Dempsey was comfortably elected on the first count, 70pc of his 2,000 surplus votes went directly to Mr Brady -- a sign of highly disciplined support.
Under Mr Dempsey's direction, Fianna Fail has developed an extremely effective organisation in Meath and took four out of six seats in the county in the last General Election.
Mr Dempsey's departure will spark a race among the main parties to take his seat, but it crucially leaves the large town of Trim in the south of the county open.
Fianna Fail will most likely run Cllr Shane Cassells, the party candidate in the 2005 Meath by-election.
Mr Cassells would be expected to win a selection convention. His Navan town base will damage Mr Brady, who relied upon splitting the town with Mr Dempsey. Although rurally based in the north of the county, a large part of his Kells base has been moved into Meath East in a redraw.
Already under pressure to hold his seat, Mr Dempsey's departure won't mean Mr Brady is any better placed to take the Fianna Fail seat.
Only this week, Fine Gael selected Cllr Catherine Yore from the north of the county as the running mate for sitting TD Damien English.
She narrowly defeated Cllr Ray Butler from Trim, but Fine Gael will now have to examine whether to add his name to the ticket to capitalise on Mr Dempsey's retirement.
On his first outing, Sinn Fein's Peadar Toibin, also from Navan, will pose a threat.
But the Labour Party are the greatest beneficiaries from Mr Dempsey's departure.
The party's candidate, Jenny McHugh, is a councillor in Navan, where she works as a school principal.
But she lives in Trim, leaving her well placed to pitch as Mr Dempsey's replacement.