Wednesday 13 November 2019

102 Coalition TDs have just one year to save their jobs

Labour to come back with just five 'guaranteed' safe seats

Tanaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton
Tanaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton

Daniel McConnell

Tánaiste Joan Burton and three of her fellow senior Labour ministers look set to lose their seats at the next election, as the party is guaranteed to win just five seats.

A detailed analysis of newly redrawn Dáil constituencies based on Labour's current poll rating of just 6pc, shows that just five TDs appear safe to return in the next Dáil. In 2011 the party won 37 seats and now holds 34.

Worse still for the party, just one Cabinet minister - Brendan Howlin - looks set to return to the next Dáil. Both Ms Burton and her deputy leader, Alan Kelly, are vulnerable to losing their seats.

The other TDs who appear safe are Brendan Ryan (Dublin North); Emmet Stagg (Kildare North); Willie Penrose (Longford Westmeath) and party chairman Jack Wall or his son Mark, who could run in his place in Kildare South.

Mr Howlin has successfully been returned to the Dáil in Wexford in every election since 1987. Despite his tough role as Public Expenditure Minister, he looks assured of keeping his seat.

Senior Labour Party figures have conceded that with the party's slump in support, combined with a reduction in Dáil seats from 166 to 158, a large number of their TDs stand "little or no chance" of retaining their seats.

"If an election was called tomorrow, the five named are the only ones who look safe to return, and largely that is because all of them have strong personal votes in their areas. When the tide is out it is out," said one senior figure.

In Ms Burton's case, she shares the highly-competitive Dublin West constituency with Health Minister Leo Varadkar, which means that the two political heavyweights are locked in a "do-or-die" battle for the last seat.

"Joan is likely to be very squeezed, given the rise of the left across Dublin since 2011. But it is definitely a race between herself and Leo for the last seat," said one party figure.

Ms Burton topped the poll in Dublin West at the last election, being the first person elected to the Dáil nationally. However, she previously lost her seat in 1997.

Mr Kelly, while coming from a Labour stronghold in Portroe in the constituency of Tipperary North, is now also vulnerable. It is not certain he will retain his seat.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan is seen as having very little chance of keeping her seat, despite her promotion to the senior Cabinet last summer. Communications Minister Alex White could also lose out as the Dublin South constituency has been reduced from a five-seater to a three-seater. There has been some speculation that he might move to the new five-seat Dublin South-West constituency, as it is expected that Pat Rabbitte will not run again.

The party looks set to be all but wiped out in Munster, which would see several junior ministers and other leading party figures lose out.

Junior ministers including Kathleen Lynch (Cork North Central), Seán Sherlock (Cork East), as well as Banking Inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch look set to miss out, as do Clare TD Michael McNamara and Cork South-West TD Michael McCarthy.

Other junior ministers Ann Phelan (Carlow Kilkenny), Ged Nash (Louth), Kevin Humphreys (Dublin Bay South) and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North) appear unlikely to retain their seats at the party's current poll ratings.

Former party leader and Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore is also looking doubtful to return in the Dún Laoghaire constituency.

Mr Gilmore will be hoping that Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett does not decide to stand again, as his automatic election to the Dáil would turn an already tough four-seater into a near impossible three-seat race.

Mr Gilmore has maintained a deliberate silence since stepping down as leader last May, but is said to be "fully concentrating" on his constituency and ensuring he at least has a chance of holding his seat.

Irish Independent

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