Saturday 21 April 2018

Kildare South

Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fail (1), Labour (1)

Horses, commuters and farmers are the key constituents of Kildare South.

This is an area with a population that is predominately middle-class and conservative.

And looking at the names on the ballot paper it could well be one of the few places in the country that will return the same three names as 2011 – albeit Labour’s Jack Wall would be replaced by his son Mark.

Kildare South has lost a chunk of its voters to Laois, including Monasterevin and Kildangan, but has picked up some new voters from the north of the county. Compared to many other constituencies the changes are minimal.

And that is one of the reasons that the incumbents can feel confident, along with the fact that Kildare South has never strayed from the three main parties since 1997.

Playing on voters’ minds will be the housing crisis, transport and agriculture, including the equestrian sector.

Fine Gael reclaimed Alan Dukes’ old seat last time out thanks to the emergence of Martin Heydon.

A first-timer he has proven popular in the Leinster House and after five years as a TD plays the part of a god political operator. He will hope to top the poll.

Fianna Fáil have in the past won two seats in this constituency and while their lack of bounce back since 2011 means it's a long shot on this occasion, it remains an outside chance on a very good day.

The party’s chief whip Sean O Fearghail will get over the line but the presence of Fiona O’Loughlin on the ticket could actually hit his vote.

She will see herself as strong second candidate rather than a ‘gender quota’ candidate.

As a former mayor of the county she already has good recognition factor but will need O Fearghail to hit the quota early to have any chance.

Locally there is a mini-battle that is being touted as ‘The battle of the Fionas’ as Heydon’s running mate is the similarly named Fiona McLoughlin Healy. She is also Newbridge based.

The Labour Party will be hoping that Kildare South offers a solid seat on a day that could prove difficult overall.

Athy’s Jack Wall is retiring but his son is a well-known councillor who will happily fill his shoes. His fate will depend to a large extent on his father’s personal vote, more so than the Labour brand.

Sinn Féin is growing in Kildare South and managed to get two councillors elected at the local elections – but their candidate selection process didn’t go according to plan and neither of those councillors got through convention.

Bizarrely they ended up selecting Patricia Ryan from Monasterevian which is no longer in the constituency.

It would have been interesting to see how businessman and Jack and Jill founder Jonathan Irwin would have faired. He had declared as a candidate for Renua but subsequently pulled out for health reasons.

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