Friday 23 March 2018


Fine Gael (1), Sinn Fein (1), Fianna Fail (1), and Independent (1).

Sligo/Leitrim is a four seat constituency once more having been a three seat of Sligo/ North Leitrim which returned one FF, one FG and one SF TD last time out.

The new constituency also includes West Cavan and South Donegal. They have hardly mentioned so far but could play a crucial role in the outcome.

The election of SF's Michael Colreavy was a major surprise so the party is well placed to hold on to that seat this time around and may even add a second.

Colreavy is not standing this time but SF are running two candidates. Chris MacManus, a former Borough Councillor and son of current long serving councillor Sean MacManus, is based in Sligo town while also running is Leitrim councillor Martin Kenny.

Both are being supported on the ground in the Donegal and Cavan districts by a large Sinn Fein canvassing team since the autumn in towns like Bundoran and Ballyshannon in Donegal and Ballyconnell, Kinawley and Killashandra in Cavan. Private polls suggest that if Sinn Fein gets its vote out, it could cause a major upset and get both men elected.

Fine Gael is running three candidates. Outgoing TDs Tony McLoughlin and John Perry from Ballymote who had to go to the High Court to get added and former TD Gerry Reynolds from Leitrim who is returning to politics after a long break.

The fallout from the Perry case can't be good for the party locally, but it appears, from the private polls, that it has helped Mr Perry. The rivalry between the Perry and McLoughlin camps is said to be intense, but Perry is getting huge support in private polls and may even top it when the real one takes place.

Fianna Fail have selected Senator Marc MacSharry son of former Tanaiste and minister Ray MacSharry. He failed to win a seat last time out leaving the constituency without a FF TD. He will be up against councillor and former TD Eamon Scanlon from Ballymote who lost his seat in 2011 but who some party officials are tipping to be ahead of MacSharry.

Labour has selected Senator Susan O'Keeffe who polled well last time but that was with the party doing well under Eamon Gilmore. With a drop in support now she would appear to have little chance of getting a seat.

It will be one FG, one FF and one SF for certain with the final seat being a scrap between FG, SF and an Independent.

An interesting candidate is Marie Casserly. A school teacher, she was elected as an independent councillor at the last local elections. Her election was a major surprise and she is very popular across the constituency. She has aligned herself with Shane Ross's Independent Alliance and has the backing of MEP Marian Harkin who previously won a seat as an independent in the constituency.

Also in the field is former Labour TD, Declan Bree, a councillor since 1974 and now an Independent socialist who has had a high profile in exposing over-spending by Sligo County Council.

Renua Ireland are also running Finbarr Filan, the brother of Westlife’s Shane, believing there’s enough demand for change to get him elected.

The large number of independents may go against them all, but if anyone was to emerge, Bree is favourite.

Constituency issues include lack of investment in major road infrastructure over the past two governments. The main roads into Sligo remain need major upgrading.

The Dublin road N4 from Collooney to Castlebaldwin of some 12km urgently needs upgrading. No progress has been made on upgrading the Galway road N17 or the Enniskillen road N16. The N4 is in stage five of seven with the council saying if the Government prioritises it over the next two years work may well start towards the end of 2017 or early 2018.

Lack of social housing is a major issue in the City and county. There are over 1000 people on the housing list in Sligo, doubling over the past six years.

Also, lack of jobs is an issue and a real sense that the recovery has not been felt in provincial towns. No major industry has come to Sligo in recent years.  IDA Ireland is often criticised for its lack of progress in this regard.

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