Tuesday 24 October 2017

Buttimer to battle the odds again in constituency of the 'big beasts'

Jerry Buttimer met Gerry Murphy and his dog on the canvass in Douglas in Cork South Central. Photo: Mark Condren
Jerry Buttimer met Gerry Murphy and his dog on the canvass in Douglas in Cork South Central. Photo: Mark Condren
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Fine Gael backbench TD Jerry Buttimer is used to people writing him off.

In 2011 he took a seat in Cork South Central despite pundits dismissing him as mere transfer fodder for his high-profile running mates, Simon Coveney and Deirdre Clune.

In the end, the former secondary school teacher took almost 1,500 more first-preference votes than Ms Clune despite the fact Peter Barry's daughter was widely tipped for a senior position in any coalition government as reward for her loyalty to Enda Kenny during the leadership heave.

Now, Mr Buttimer faces the challenge of a "constituency of death" scenario as Cork South Central drops from five to four seats, a determined onslaught from Sinn Féin which is convinced it can take a Dáil berth south of the River Lee and, to make matters worse, a significant portion of his power base slipping into Cork North Central.

"I'm used to people writing me off. In 2007, they told me I'd never get elected to the Dáil or the Seanad. I made it to the Seanad in 2007 and then the Dáil in 2011," he said.

"It's no different this time around, though, to be honest. Dropping to a four-seater changes the landscape for everyone. But I work very hard, I've never stopped knocking on doors to gauge public opinion and, with a little luck, I'll be there or thereabouts in City Hall when the final votes are counted."

The TD celebrates his 49th birthday on March 18 - and would dearly love to be able to mark it as a member of the 32nd Dáil.

A key advantage may well prove to be the courageous stance he took in helping lead the 'Yes' marriage equality campaign last year.

"It ranks as one of my proudest moments in politics. It was actually quite inspiring."

The loss of a Dáil berth will now see Cork South Central become even more bitterly contested.

In a constituency dominated by political 'big beasts', there is little doubt but that Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin and Michael McGrath will be re-elected.

Local pundits suggest Mr McGrath - his party's finance spokesman who delivered a strong vote in 2011 - might just out-poll his party leader.

Mr Coveney isn't just a senior Cabinet minister and a potential future leader of Fine Gael. He is also an assiduous constituency worker. The question now will be how the party manages its vote to assist his running mate.

But left-wing parties believe the fourth and final seat is there to be won.

Labour's Ciarán Lynch TD, the Banking Inquiry chairman, is battling not only the shrinkage of the constituency but a strong challenge from Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and a number of Independents active in the anti-water charge protest movement.

Prediction: Fine Gael (2) and Fianna Fáil (2)

Irish Independent

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