Saturday 24 February 2018


Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fail (1), Labour (1), Independent (2).

THE biggest question being asked nationally and locally is whether Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, can hold his seat with a heavy national trend against his party.

Already we know one thing before a single vote is cast in this newly-formulated constituency of Tipperary.  As the merger of the two three-seaters of Tipperary North and South conjures up one five-seater, one of the six outgoing TDs will not succeed in returning to Leinster House.

The impact of the loss of a large swathe of territory in the north of the county to the new adjoining three-seat constituency of Offaly may also impact upon the outcome. Meanwhile, all the parties and Independents are preparing for the demands of “playing the full pitch” next time out.

Long-time Independent Michael Lowry, who had almost 30pc of the vote last time in the old Tipperary North, is on target to be a poll-topper or near enough to that. Junior Agriculture Minister Tom Hayes is also expected to hold his own.

Independent Mattie McGrath from Newcastle, close to Clonmel in the south of the constituency, also looks well set. He was a long-time Fianna Fáil member but fell out with the party in June 2010 and decided to sever his links entirely and stand as an Independent in February 2011. His high national profile is likely to help him across the entire county.

The remaining two seats are much harder to figure out. Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan of Roscrea is in the reckoning. So also is Séamus Healy of the breakaway trade union grouping called the Workers & Unemployed Action Group (WUAG). But he may not travel well beyond his southern heartland.

And the Enviroment Minister Alan Kelly, though he has a big fight on his hands is very far from being finished. He is putting in a huge campaign, and like Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan, bemoans the undue impact of the hiving off northern areas into Offaly.

Fianna Fáil are reduced to having no TD in the entire county and this time they field three candidates in efforts to redress this. These are Cllr Michael Smith of Roscrea, Cllr Siobhán Ambrose of Clonmel, and Cllr Jackie Cahill of Thurles. Smith is son of Michael Smith a long time TD, Senator and Government Minister.

The rivalry between all three will be intense but party managers hope this of itself will help. The clear risk is that they could hopelessly split the vote and drag each other down.

Cllr Jackie Cahill is a former president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association and he won the selection convention in May. Cllrs Smith and Ambrose, the latter an experienced councillor who will appeal to women voters, were later added to the ticket in efforts to spread the load.

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