Fine Gael (2), Fianna Fail (2), Sinn Fein (1).
CAN Fianna Fáil hold a rare second seat here against stiff competition?
Are Sinn Féin set for a breakthrough? And, if so, at whose expense? Will Labour lose a seat their party have long held in Kilkenny?
And what impact can one of Renua Ireland’s more impressive candidates make?
There is no shortage of big questions associated with the intriguing political contest for this five-seater which straddles two counties. A total of 13 candidates have so far declared their intention of fielding and the competition will be extremely keen.
The May 2015 by-election results have been carefully pored over by the key players for clues as to what lies ahead. That was held to replace former Environment Minister, Phil Hogan, who is now Ireland’s EU Commissioner and had been a TD there since June 1989.
In that by-election Bobby Aylward of Fianna Fáil won back the seat in the by-election which he had lost in 2011 as his party’s vote dipped by almost 20pc in Carlow-Kilkenny. Aylward, from the south of Kilkenny, thus joined his Kilkenny city colleague, John McGuinness, at Leinster House.
The pair are once again joined by Cllr Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor of Carlow on the ticket. Local pundits fancy the Fianna Fáil pair to hold on – but an imponderable will be the impact of Cllr Patrick McKee on McGuinness’s vote in Kilkenny city.
McKee was one of Lucinda Creighton’s more promising recruits and he polled almost 10pc in the 2015 by-election and is a former Fianna Fáil councillor. He is an unlikely seat prospect to win this time but he should have a decent vote and the destination of his transfers will be watched with some interest.
Labour virtually “owned” a Dáil seat via James Pattison and later his son, Séamus, with just a few gaps, over the years 1933 to 2007, giving the party very deep roots here. Séamus Pattison, a former Ceann Comhairle, quit in 2007. In 2011 Labour regained the seat with Ann Phelan of Graighnamanagh, who was later appointed junior agriculture minister responsible for rural affairs.
The swing against Labour and the potential rise of Sinn Féin makes Ann Phelan very vulnerable. Many see SF’s Cllr Kathleen Funchion taking a deal of Phelan’s vote share this time.
Cllr Funchion has been active locally since 2007 and the party, who ran two candidates in 2011, are opting for a single-candidate strategy this time. She polled over 16pc in the by-election which gives her further encouragement of success this time but a win would break new ground as the party has traditionally not prospered here.
Fine Gael have added Cllr David Fitzgerald, who also contested the by-election, to the ticket of the two sitting TDs, John Paul Phelan of Kilkenny, and Pat Deering of Carlow. Ultimately, the odds are on this outgoing pair of TDs holding on.
The Green Party will field former Mayor of Kilkenny Cllr Malcolm Noonan who will be trying to win back the seat that party held from 2007-2011 through Mary White of Carlow. Noonan is a long-time local politician and activist but unlikely to be in the running for a seat this time.