Thursday 18 January 2018

Donohoe: I'm fighting for my political career

Paschal Donohoe canvassing Pearse Buckley in the Grangegorman area of his constituency. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Paschal Donohoe canvassing Pearse Buckley in the Grangegorman area of his constituency. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Niall O’Connor

Fine Gael will watch the votes being counted in Dublin Central with a real sense of trepidation.

The party knows that its candidate running in the former stomping ground of Bertie Ahern and Tony Gregory could become the most high profile casualty of the General Election.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe's political career is in serious doubt - and it's something he does not need reminding of.

"At different points in recent times, I was asked would I consider moving constituency," Mr Donohoe said, citing the effects of the boundary changes. "I said 'No, this is where I am, these are the people I want to represent'. But yeah - there's going to be tough competition on the ballot paper," he added.

The three-seat constituency produced two Government TDs in 2011 but the chance of such a repeat is close to nil.

The fate of Mr Donohoe is likely to rest on whether he can finish ahead of his Coalition colleague, Labour Party TD Joe Costello.

Mr Costello's profile has diminished somewhat since he was sacked by Tánaiste Joan Burton as junior foreign affairs minister. He could also suffer dearly as a result of his party languishing in the opinion polls.

But Mr Costello's work ethic sets him apart from many of his rivals in the constituency, which is still suffering from issues such as unemployment and a chronic housing shortage.

The prospect of Fianna Fáil winning a seat here is a long shot. The party has selected former councillor Mary Fitzpatrick as its sole candidate. Many feel that this is a case of 'last chance saloon' for Ms Fitzpatrick, who was unsuccessful in the European elections.

One candidate who is all but certain to retain her seat is Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. While her political judgment has been questioned in terms of her unwavering loyalty to Gerry Adams, there is no doubt Ms McDonald is Sinn Féin's leader-in-waiting.

Dublin Central voters have often turned to Independent candidates - and there is no reason why 2016 will be any different. Sitting TD Maureen O'Sullivan, who was closely aligned to the late Tony Gregory, will be in contention again this time around.

However, there is a serious risk that a crowded field of Independents and left-wing candidates could cause trouble for the quietly spoken deputy. And Noel Gregory, the brother of the late Tony Gregory, has thrown his support behind Ms O'Sullivan's rival, Christy Burke.

Mr Burke's profile has soared as a result of his successful tenure as Dublin's Lord Mayor. But he is also feeding into the same vote pool as Councillor Cieran Perry, who has the backing of left-wing TDs Paul Murphy and Joan Collins.

The Social Democrats are fielding Councillor Gary Gannon, an inner-city native who has impressed since being elected to the council in 2014.

Workers' Party Councillor Éilis Ryan, Diana O'Dwyer of AAA/PBP, Ian Noel Smyth of the Green Party, Renua's Jacqui Gilbourne and Cormac McKay of Direct Democracy Ireland complete the field.

PREDICTION: McDonald, Donohoe, Burke.

Irish Independent

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