Thursday 18 January 2018

FG hoping low turnout will help election chances

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE GAEL campaigners are worried the controversy over women having to give up their jobs in mortgage debt deals will harm their chances in the Meath East by-election.

The bad weather exacerbated the already expected low turnout in the by-election being held to replace the late junior minister Shane McEntee.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's bid to quickly shut down the furore over Transport Minister Leo Varadkar's comments on childcare was viewed as partly influenced by polling.

The by-election is viewed as a straight fight between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Fine Gael figures were hoping the affair wouldn't impact on voters and damage the prospects of their candidate, Helen McEntee, the daughter of Mr McEntee.

"I think his comments could have an impact. The vote she's getting is a strong female vote," a senior party source said.

Ms McEntee remains the narrow favourite to win the seat ahead of Fianna Fail senator Thomas Byrne. The low turnout is viewed as possibly helping Fine Gael's chances.

Across the constituency, the turnout was described as sluggish and well down on normal general election figures.

The turnout was higher in the northern end of the county, where Mr McEntee was based.

Last night, tallymen reckoned the overall turnout would be under 40pc. But some areas in the northern end of the county, around Nobber and Kells, were heading for about 50-60pc. Down in Dunboyne, Ashbourne and Ratoath, turnout was around 30pc.

Counting in the by-election will begin this morning at 9am in the Donaghmore-Ashbourne GAA Club outside Ashbourne. Early tallies can be expected to give a rough indication of the result before 9:30am. A first count is expected by lunchtime with a result by mid-afternoon.

Irish Independent

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