Friday 23 March 2018

Dublin Rathdown

Independent (1), Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fail (1).

The overhaul of constituency boundaries in 2012 proved contentious in many parts of the country.

And South County Dublin was no exception.

The five seat Dublin South constituency was scrapped and large pockets were moved into the neighbouring Dublin South West and Dún Laoghaire constituencies.

The Electoral Commission recommended the formation of a new three constituency known as Dublin-Rathdown, which is being contested by sitting TDs Alan Shatter (Fine Gael), Alex White (Labour Party), Peter Mathews (Independent) and Shane Ross (Independent).

There were mixed fortunes for all four incumbents during the course of the Dáil term.

Alan Shatter was effectively sacked from Cabinet, while Alex White was promoted.

Peter Mathews left his political party, while Shane Ross formed a new alliance.

Simple maths proves that four doesn’t go into three and there will be at least one high profile casualty come polling day.

The only TD deemed safe is Ross, who secured a jaw-dropping 17,075 votes five years ago.

As one of the Dáil’s most impressive performers, Ross and his Independent Alliance could potentially prop up a Fine Gael-led coalition short on numbers.

Fine Gael’s vote in Dublin Rathdown may well provide an early indication as to whether it can lead the next government.

Shatter has undergone somewhat of a resurgence since being relegated to the backbenches, recently taking Sinn Féin to task over the Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy controversy and the party’s extraordinary attack on the Special Criminal Court.

But he undoubtedly remains haunted by the garda controversies that led to Taoiseach Enda Kenny losing confidence in his justice minister.

Shatter has a strained relationship with his highly affable Dáil colleague Olivia Mitchell, who decided not to run again despite the best efforts of her party to persuade her otherwise.

At a closely fought selection convention last year, Shatter defeated councillor Neale Richmond, who previously served as Mitchell’s parliamentary assistant.

Shatter is joined on the Fine Gael ticket by councillor Josepha Madigan, a family law solicitor. Madigan was the sole female candidate to put her name forward and was effectively added as result of Fine Gael’s gender quota targets.

Fine Gael has a strong enough support base here to take one seat, probably through the former Cabinet heavyweight.

But Shatter knows that his seat is far from safe and that a defeat in the spring will probably spell the end of his political career.

Another prominent politician facing the prospect of defeat is Communications Minister Alex White. The former RTÉ producer has been a steady at Cabinet, since his promotion by Tánaiste Joan Bruton, who defeated him in the Labour Party leadership contest.

But White will always be associated with the so-called ‘gang of eight’ - a group of TDs and senators who plotted a heave against Eamon Gilmore before he stepped down as leader.

With Labour languishing in the polls, White may well prove to be the most significant single casualty of the election.

And he could joined by former Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews, who has endured more lows than highs during his time in Leinster House.

Since losing the party over the abortion issue, Mathews has struggled to make an impact inside the Dáil chamber. He constantly gripes, and understandably so, over the lack of speaking time available to some of those on the Opposition benches and has become embroiled in several rows with Ceann Comhairle Séan Barrett.

In recent weeks, Mathews has seen the departure of his parliamentary assistant, Avril Cronin, who has decided to run for Fine Gael in the Wicklow/East Carlow constituency.

With one independent seat likely to go to Ross, Mathews faces an uphill battle.

But he has an exceptional grasp on issues such as bankruptcy and personal finances and this will resonate with people on the doorsteps.

Given that four of the five seats produced in 2011 went to candidates on the right of centre, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit (AAA/PBP) are unlikely to challenge for a seat.

The former is running Sorcha Nic Cormaic, a councillor, gaelgóir and primary school teacher based in Balally.

Nicola Curry, who ran unsuccessfully in 2011, is the AAA/PBP candidate.

The Green Party is fielding a highly able candidate in its deputy leader Catherine Martin, who was elected to the council in 2014.

But with a green resurgence seemingly a long way off, Martin is unlikely to feature during the business side of proceedings.

The same cannot be said for Fianna Fáil senator Mary White, who is the dark horse of this particular electoral contest. The businesswoman and founder of Lir Chocolates is sparing no expense in terms of her self promotion. She has already staged numerous public meetings and commissioned a plane to fly over Croke Park carrying the slogan ‘Cut the Inheritance Tax’.

White appeals to female and middle class voters and this may well prove to be her best opportunity at taking a Dáil seat.

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