MICHAEL McCarthy's campaign to become a TD was interrupted by more important matters yesterday when he had to pay a visit to Cork University Maternity Hospital.
The Labour Party senator, from Dunmanway, Co Cork, was visiting his wife Nollagh and his as yet unnamed baby boy -- born at 12:01pm on St Valentine's Day. The couple's first son, Odhran, is 19 months old.
"The baby was due on St Valentine's Day but neither Nollagh nor myself thought that the baby would arrive on schedule," he said.
There is a better chance of predicting the arrival time of a newborn baby than the outcome in the Cork South-West constituency.
The retirement of veteran Fine Gael TDs PJ Sheehan and Jim O'Keeffe, after they dominated the constituency for the past 30 years, throws up major opportunities.
Leaving the hospital at lunchtime, Mr McCarthy headed for Kinsale and admitted he would be canvassing around the clock over the next 10 days.
Traditionally, the three-seat constituency has been dominated by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. But Mr McCarthy ran an impressive campaign in 2007 and is being tipped to break the two-party stranglehold.
"It will be tough and it will be close, but I believe the seat is there to be won," he said.
Fine Gael are running a risky three-candidate strategy, which will be seen as genius if the party holds its two seats and misjudged if it doesn't.
There's little room for errors. In the sprawling constituency, the party has Noel Harrington in the west, Jim Daly in the centre and Kevin Murphy in the east.
Fianna Fail is running former TD Denis O'Donovan and sitting TD Christy O'Sullivan.
The various permutations and combinations suggest there will be one seat at least for Fine Gael, with the remaining two seats between the same party, Labour and Fianna Fail.
Mr McCarthy says job creation is the big issue in the constituency, where he says the food production and fisheries industries need a greater focus from the Government.
This is his third attempt at getting voted into the Dail and it's widely seen as make or break for Mr McCarthy -- so he's taking nothing for granted.
"We are exerting huge pressure in the constituency and battling for every vote," he says.
The 2011 General Election campaign may yet go down in the annals of the McCarthy family for several reasons.
Christy O’Sullivan TD
LAST TIME OUT
? Fine Gael’s PJ Sheehan wins the seat back he lost in 2002 meltdown
? Fianna Fail’s Denis O’Donovan loses out
? Former Independent Christy O’Sullivan wins Joe Walsh’s Fianna Fail seat
? Fine Gael’s Jim O’Keeffe wins again
? SEATS 3
? ELECTORATE 62,174
? VOTERS PER TD 20,724