Sunday 21 January 2018

Sinn Féin eyeing up major win at Labour's expense

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly and Carlow- Kilkenny candidate Kathleen Funchion. Photo: Leah Farrell/
Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly and Carlow- Kilkenny candidate Kathleen Funchion. Photo: Leah Farrell/
John Downing

John Downing

Are Sinn Féin set for a breakthrough via Cllr Kathleen Funchion, standing in her fourth Dáil election? And, if so, will Labour lose out?

Can Fianna Fáil hold a rare second seat here against stiff competition in a field of at least 13 candidates? And what impact can one of Renua's more impressive candidates make?

Labour virtually "owned" a Dáil seat via James Pattison and later his son Séamus, with just a few gaps from the years 1933 to 2007, giving the party very deep roots here. In 2011, Labour regained the seat with Ann Phelan, of Graiguenamanagh, later appointed junior minister for rural affairs.

The swing against Labour and the potential Sinn Féin rise makes Ms Phelan vulnerable. Ms Funchion polled an encouraging 16pc in the May 2015 by-election held to choose a replacement for Phil Hogan.

A win would break new ground for the party here. "On the canvass, I find real anger from people who are struggling just to make ends meet. Too many people remain untouched by this much-vaunted economic recovery. The people's disillusionment has increased their likelihood to consider voting for Sinn Féin," she said.

Ms Funchion is married to Waterford Senator David Cullinane, who is the Sinn Féin candidate in Waterford, and may also be in line for a Dáil win. So, a husband-and-wife team at Leinster House after this election cannot be ruled out.

In that May 2015 by-election, Bobby Aylward of Fianna Fáil regained the seat lost in 2011 when his party's vote dipped by almost 20pc. Aylward, from south Kilkenny, thus joined his Kilkenny city colleague John McGuinness at Leinster House.

Cllr Jennifer Murnane- O'Connor of Carlow is also on the FF ticket. Local pundits fancy the two Fianna Fáil TDs to hold on - but an imponderable will be the impact of Cllr Patrick McKee on McGuinness's vote in Kilkenny city. McKee, a former Fianna Fáil councillor, polled almost 10pc in the by-election. He is an unlikely prospect, but should have a decent vote, and his transfers will be watched.

Fine Gael have added Cllr David Fitzgerald, who also contested the by-election, to the ticket of the two sitting TDs, John Paul Phelan of Kilkenny, and Pat Deering of Carlow. Ultimately, the odds are on this outgoing pair of TDs holding on, as Phil Hogan's departure will ease pressure here.

The Green Party field former Mayor of Kilkenny Cllr Malcolm Noonan, who will be trying to win back the seat that party held from 2007-2011 through Mary White of Carlow. Noonan is a long-time local politician and activist but unlikely to be in the running for a seat this time.


Candidates:5 seats

FG John Paul Phelan TD, FG Pat Deering TD, FG David Fitzgerald, LAB Ann Phelan TD, FF John McGuinness TD, FF Bobby Aylward TD, FF Jennifer Murnane-O'Conor, SF Kathleen Funchion, AAA Conor MacLiam, PBPA Adrienne Wallace, R Patrick McKee, GP Malcolm Noonan, IND Noel G Walsh, IND Teresa Ryan-Feehan.

Prediction: 2 FG, 2 FF, 1 SF.

Irish Independent

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