Longford- Westmeath: Keeping his seat no laughing matter for funnyman
FIANNA Fail TD Peter Kelly is known as one of the Dail's funnymen -- but he isn't laughing and joking during this election campaign.
The former undertaker and publican has given up the drink for the past two months and is working on his campaign from 7am till midnight in an attempt to hold on to his seat.
"We're not telling too many jokes this time. It's quite a serious business," he said.
Mr Kelly, who got involved in politics canvassing for his father in the 1973 local elections, said this was the hardest campaign he had ever been involved in.
"There are people very annoyed and upset with Fianna Fail and tell me they are not voting for me. But they are quite courteous. There was this thing we were going to be ran from the doors -- it's not happening," he said.
Mr Kelly is too polite to say it but he is effectively locked in a dogfight for the Fianna Fail seat in the constituency with fellow TD, the wily Mary O'Rourke. She (along with Fianna Fail's third candidate Cllr Robert Troy) is canvassing for votes in Westmeath while he concentrates on Longford -- and whoever is ahead in first preferences is likely to be elected by the other.
Yesterday, Mr Kelly was opening a €1.5m library refurbishment in Ballymahon in Longford but the area overall has been hit hard by the recession. Around 15,000 people are out of work and there are about 40 ghost estates in both counties.
Fine Gael's sitting TD James "Bonkers" Bannon was much mocked for his habit of shouting at Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Dail, but has also been bringing up these issues. He is seen as an effective vote-getter who will retain his seat.
Fine Gael is targeting an extra seat in the constituency through two other candidates, Senator Nicky McFadden and Cllr Peter Burke.
Labour is certain of at least one seat through barrister Willie Penrose, who has built up an incredible electoral machine.
The party has recruited former PD TD Mae Sexton, who failed to get her expenses back in the constituency in the 2007 General Election.
She is a capable candidate -- but it's still a big ask for her to deliver a second seat for the party.