Saturday 21 April 2018

Cowen faces FF meltdown in his own constituency

Party faces losing two of its seats in the stronghold of Laois-Offaly

Taoiseach Brian Cowan. Photo: Getty Images
Taoiseach Brian Cowan. Photo: Getty Images


The meltdown in the Fianna Fail vote has now entered the very heartland of Mr Cowen's constituency.

Like Donegal, the constituency of Laois-Offaly is a Fianna Fail stronghold where, since 1977, the party has consistently won three out of the five seats.

But now, in what would be a stunning political realignment, a constituency poll suggests that such is the collapse in support for Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein's Brian Stanley and first-time Labour candidate John Whelan are poised to win seats.

Last week, in an interview with the Leinster Express, the FF Junior Health Minister John Moloney admitted that on the basis of recent polls it would be "very difficult to hold the two [FF] seats in Laois''.

The downbeat minister also said that when it came to going before the voters that it was a case of "having to stand'' rather than "looking forward to standing''.

Now internal polling within the Laois-Offaly constituency has revealed that Fianna Fail could actually lose two of their seats, with Mr Cowen the only FF candidate who can be sure of winning a seat in the constituency.

Whilst Cowen is securing up to 45 per cent of the votes in his Offaly base, the collapse in support for FF within the Laois commuter belt means the Taoiseach could lose up to a third of his vote.

"Cowen took seven thousand votes in Laois in the last election. There's not a vote for him now though. Even Laois FF is disgusted with his attitude to the county,'' said one politician.

However, there has been an even more startling decline in support for the two current FF TDs.

Respected FF back-bencher Sean Fleming and John Moloney will struggle to win more than 3,500 first preferences each. With the other FF candidate John Foley flatlining with just over two thousand votes, this means that FF will struggle to win a second seat since the increasingly fractious relationship between Mr Fleming and Mr Moloney means the rate of transfers between the two will be exceptionally poor.

The dramatic decline in support for the Taoiseach, who on these figures would be elected on the first count, will be critical when it comes to the fate of his running mates. One local politician noted that "Cowen will not have enough of a surplus to drag the other two over the line''.

The decline in support for FF in Laois-Offaly is similar to the nationwide factor but it might have been expected the Taoiseach's status within the constituency would have mitigated the extent of the fall in his own home base.

Sunday Independent

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