Thursday 14 December 2017

Independents Naughten and Fitzmaurice in pole position

Denis Naughten speaks to drum maker Lorcan Mitchell of Anam Ceol. Photo: Andrew Downes
Denis Naughten speaks to drum maker Lorcan Mitchell of Anam Ceol. Photo: Andrew Downes
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Denis Naughten may be a favourite to keep his seat, but the Roscommon Independent who was last returned as a Fine Gael TD is not resting on his laurels.

Mr Naughten was expelled from Fine Gael just months after the last election, over his stance on Roscommon Hospital. While he remains out in the cold with the party, his popularity in his home constituency is as high as ever.

Fine Gael acknowledged his popularity by only running one candidate against him - a lot of grassroot FG voters are expected to stand by him.

"The feeling is I put my career on the line and stood by the people. They now feel it's their turn to stand by me," said Naughten.

It's not lost on the party that his support as an Independent may be invaluable in forming the next government. As for Mr Naughten, he's not ruling out working with any party in the future - albeit firmly as an Independent.

"At the moment it looks like Independents will hold the balance of power after the election. The numbers are stacking up. I would be very foolish to rejoin Fine Gael when dissidents get punished. As an Independent I will have a significant input in the next Dáil and any government," he said.

Fellow Independent Michael Fitzmaurice, who is hugely popular and seen as a hands-on politician, also looks set to retain his seat in the new three-seater constituency with an all-out battle between FF and FG for the third.

After a bitter internal battle, which even saw former TD Conor Lenihan throw his name around, Fianna Fáil finally chose their candidate in late December, Strokestown councillor Eugene Murphy.

But despite Mr Murphy's own popularity, the feeling remains that FF will find it hard to secure a seat here.

This could prove beneficial for FG's Maura Hopkins. The party, which secured two seats last time around, is fighting for the final spot. Despite a poor showing for FG in the local elections, Ms Hopkins managed to win a seat. She also introduced Enda Kenny at the recent Ard Fheis and is seen as one of the party's high hopes.

Also in the mix-up are John Kelly for Labour, Claire Kerrane (SF), the Green Party's Miriam Henney, Eddie Conroy (PBP) and Anne Farrell for Renua. However, none are seen as too great a threat.


Candidates:3 seats

FG Maura Hopkins, LAB John Kelly, FF Eugene Murphy, SF Claire Kerrane, PBPA Eddie Conroy, R Anne Farrell, GP Miriam Hennesy, IND Denis Naughten TD, IND Michael Fitzmaurice TD.

PREDICTION: Seats for Independents Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael battling it out for the third.

Irish Independent

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