Tuesday 16 January 2018

Coalition's second seat under threat from an Independent

Emmett O’Brien in Adare, Co Limerick. Photo: Mark Condren
Emmett O’Brien in Adare, Co Limerick. Photo: Mark Condren
John Downing

John Downing

In recent years, this constituency has shed its image as the most predictable in Ireland. And a strong Independent candidate could churn things up this time - perhaps even depriving Fine Gael of a seat.

The three-seater, which was known as Limerick West, is the only constituency which has no woman candidate and it has never elected a woman TD.

It does, however, have one of the younger candidates in 21-year-old Alexander Storey-Cosgrave, who is standing for the Green Party.

Independent Emmett O'Brien is the candidate with the potential to shake things up. The former Fianna Fáil national executive member failed to get a council nomination in 2014 and later topped the poll as an Independent with 20pc of the vote.

His ability to perform on the bigger Dáil election stage remains to be seen, however.

He is joined by another former Fianna Fáil candidate, Cllr Richard O'Donoghue of Ballingary, who launched the country's first internet campaign song.

There may also be competition from Sinn Féin's councillor, Séamus Browne of Abbeyfeale.

Mr O'Brien, a barrister and farmer from Pallaskenry, argues that this constituency, more than others, needs a change of TD.

"People are annoyed with Fine Gael over broken election promises and still very irritated with Fianna Fáil for the economic collapse.

"They are looking for a strong, local and independent voice," he told the Irish Independent.

After intense Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil rivalry, the balance has now shifted back to Fine Gael, with Patrick O'Donovan joining veteran Dan Neville in the Dáil last time.

Mr O'Donovan will be joined by Tom Neville, who is trying to take his father's long-time seat after his retirement following 26 years at Leinster House, as both a Senator and a TD. Tom Neville's Rathkeale base is close to Emmet O'Brien's home in Pallaskenry, so the rivalry here will be acute.

Mr O'Donovan's base is around Newcastlewest and he should hold.

Fine Gael is directing big resources towards Tom Neville's campaign, in which his father Dan is taking a leading role.

But if Emmett delivers his potential, the Neville seat could be very vulnerable.

Fianna Fáil has only one candidate. Niall Collins has been a TD since 2007 and his party and family roots, via his two uncles, Gerard and Michael, go back to 1948, when his grandfather, Jimmy, was first elected.

Former Labour Senator James Heffernan of Kilfinane came close in February 2011 with almost 8,000 first preferences.

He is flying the Social Democrat colours this time. However, despite a strong campaign, he will be off the pace.

PREDICTION: 1 FG, 1 FF, 1 Independent.

Limerick County

Candidates:3 seats

FG Patrick O'Donovan TD, FG Tom Neville, FF Niall Collins TD, SF Séamus Browne, SD James Heffernan, DDI Mark Keogh, IND Emmett O'Brien, IND Richard O'Donoghue.

Irish Independent

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