Fionnán Sheahan: Nine to watch in the 2019 elections
It’s going to be a long weekend of counting but here’s nine candidates whose fortunes will reflect the outcome of the 2019 local and European elections.
1. Clare Daly: The European election campaign effectively pivots around her performance. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were expected to take the first three seats before her entry into the field threw it all open. She is the real disrupter in the race who the main parties are worried about, particularly Sinn Féin. Her campaign has been low-key, but she has strong name recognition from an impressive, if often controversial, eight years as a TD for Dublin North.
2. James Byrne: A brother of Fianna Fáil TD Meath East Thomas Byrne, his father, Tommy, is also a councillor. The latest Byrne off the assembly is running in Drogheda and Fianna Fáil HQ are eyeing him up as a general election candidate in Louth. He’s a school teacher in the Sacred Heart Secondary School.
3. Sarah O’Reilly: Peader Tóibín’s new party Aontú needs a credible performance to put them on the map. O’Reilly is a sitting councillor, having been co-opted in 2016, but she left Fianna Fáil to join the new party late last year. She’s an obvious candidate in Cavan-Monaghan, where there will be seats up for grabs, if she can prove her vote-getting credentials in the Bailieborough-Cootehill district.
4. Denis Hynes: To be taken seriously, the Labour Party revival must stretch beyond the M50. Hynes is from Kilkenny where the party has a good tradition. He’s well known as a Siptu official who is the union’s sports sector organiser, who represents FAI staff. Hynes is running in Castlecomer, which would place him nicely to run in Carlow-Kilkenny in the general election.
5. Peter Ryan: He’s overcome greater challenges than a local election. Ryan is a Paralympian who lost most of his sight due to a rare condition when he was 20 and destined for an intercounty hurling career with Tipperary. He’s Fine Gael’s candidate in Thurles where the Fine Gael vote tends to be swallowed up by Lowry candidates. He’ll give Fine Gael another general election option if he gets in.
6. Evelyn Sweeney: After two decades of trying to find a replacement for former TD Dinny McGinley, Fine Gael seem to have given up on finding a general election candidate in south Donegal. However, they will need a running mate for Education Minister Joe McHugh. Sweeney, who works in his constituency office, fits the bill. She’s a native Irish speaker from Gaoth Dobhair and is running in the Glenties electoral area.
7. Conor McGuinness: He’s a long-term prospect for the Dáil in Waterford, where Sinn Féin already have David Cullinane as a sitting TD. But party HQ has plans for McGuinness, who is a constituency manager for MEP Liadh Ní Riada and is running in Dungarvan. From An Rinn, he’s a fluent Irish speaker, sits on the board of Foras na Gaeilge and is a member of the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle.
8. Anne-Marie McNally: The Social Democrats political director and long-time adviser to TD Catherine Murphy, she lost out to Gary Gannon to become the party’s European candidate. The local elections are a big test for the Soc Dems and McNally is well placed in Dublin Mid-West to launch a challenge in the general election, if she can win a seat in Lucan on South Dublin County Council.
9. Grace O’Sullivan: Ciarán Cuffe being in the shake-up in the European elections in Dublin wouldn’t be a shock. But a real Green wave would see O’Sullivan, a former Greenpeace activist who is now a Senator, in the hunt for a seat. She was a member of the crew of the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed in New Zealand by French intelligence officers in the 1980s.