Thursday 22 March 2018

Spring is vulnerable as FF bids to regain Dáil seat

Richard Williams and his statue ‘Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord’ arrive in Dingle and he takes time to talk to Michael Healy-Rae
Richard Williams and his statue ‘Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord’ arrive in Dingle and he takes time to talk to Michael Healy-Rae
John Downing

John Downing

Who will lose in this merger of two three-seat constituencies into one five-seater, which leaves six heavy-hitting contenders vying for five places?

Can Fianna Fáil overcome its legacy of local wars and regain a seat?

Or will Kerry voters continue their assumption that they already have "near-enough a Fianna Fáil TD" in the form of Independent Michael Healy-Rae?

And can the belated departure of another 'FF gene pool Independent', Tom Fleming of Scartaglin, ultimately benefit John Brassil of Fianna Fáil? Fleming, a veteran councillor since 1985, took a Dáil seat in 2011 after quitting the party.

These are among the talking points in a very lively campaign as all these Kerry politicians adjust to 'playing the full pitch' from end to end of the county. Five of the six outgoing deputies are standing again and Labour's Arthur Spring is deemed most vulnerable to a Fianna Fáil fightback, with the tide against his party.

Independent Michael Healy-Rae, now head of a family dynasty known as "the house that Jackie built", finds himself cited in the position no candidate wants - the "safe."

Unsurprisingly, he utterly rejects that idea as "big-parties' propaganda" - but some predict he can pull an epically high vote.

Fine Gael strategists hope they can hold their outgoing two TDs, with stalwart Jimmy Deenihan in Listowel spanning the north and Brendan Griffin working his way south from his base in Castlemaine.

The party has added former Tralee Mayor, Grace O'Donnell, to up its presence in one of the bigger population centres, as well as meeting the gender quota. But Griffin could be the loser if Labour can fight back.

Fianna Fáil is working to raise the profile of Cllr John Brassil outside his native Ballyheighue to the north west.

Cllr Norma Moriarty, a first-time councillor from Waterville, teaching in Kenmare, also has her work cut out to build a profile.

John Brassil said his confidence of taking a seat was growing.

"I'm canvassing six, seven days per week since last April. The anger against Fianna Fáil is gone when compared with the last general election and the locals in 2014," he said.

It helps Healy-Rae that no strong candidate has emerged in Killarney, as he is based in nearby Kilgarvan and has a long association with the town.

Sinn Féin's Martin Ferris is trying to build in the south of the constituency, where the party has traditionally been weak but it continues to make inroads on the working-class vote.

Labour's Arthur Spring is by agreement of almost everyone likely to be fighting to the end with Griffin of Fine Gael.

Arthur Spring regained the Labour seat held from 1981 until 2002 by his uncle, the former Tánaiste Dick Spring, and before that by his grandfather, Dan Spring, who first took the seat in 1943.

The family's Kerry and sporting links go deep and they will not give up easily.

The Green Party fields Michael Fitzgerald of Castlegregory and the AAA-PBP has Brian Finucane of Ballylongford.

Independents include Henry Gaynor, from the Spa, Tralee; Kevin Murphy, and Michael O'Gorman.

PREDICTION: 2 FG; 1 SF; 1 Independent; 1 FF.


Candidates: 5 SEATS

FG Jimmy Deenihan TD, FG Grace O’Donnell, FG Brendan Griffin TD, LAB Arthur Spring TD, FF John Brassil, FF Norma Moriarty, SF Martin Ferris TD, PBPA Brian Finucane, R Donal Corcoran, GP Michael Fitzgerald, IA Tom Fleming TD, IND Michael Healy Rae TD, IND Michael O’Gorman, IND Kevin Murphy, IND Henry Gaynor.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News