Monday 18 December 2017

Dundalk South facing a heavy-weight clash

THERE are seven seats in the Dundalk South constituency, with established names in both politics and business vying for a place on the new local authority.

In the list of a dozen so far declared, there are some serious heavy-weight contenders such as current Louth County Council chairman Declan Breathnach (Fianna Fail) and former Irish teacher Tomas Sharkey (Sinn Fein).

Breathnach has one running mate – coffee house owner Stephen Egan – while Sharkey has two current councillors on the ticket – Kevin Meenan who has been a councillor for 15 years, and Jennifer Green, a former Dundalk Town Council chairperson who was co-opted after the retirement of Ian Dooley in 2010.

Green is joined by two other women –-Green Party councillor Marianne Butler, a sister-in-law of Mark Dearey and Fine Gael's Maria Doyle, a teacher at the CBS Primary.

Her colleague, Linus English is a former taxi driver and elections director for Senator Jim D'Arcy, whom he replaced in 2012 on Louth County Council.

Accountant and former head of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, Paddy Malone, is running for Fine Gael, while businessman Brian O'Neill is running as an independent, as is Cllr. Oliver Morgan and current Dundalk Town Council chairman, Eamon O'Boyle.

Blackrock may be the key that unlocks seats in this constituency. What will happen to the 'Dermot Ahern' vote and will all of Jim D'Arcy's significant first preferences be transferred directly to his party colleagues and, if so, which one?

Sinn Fein will be looking to boost their support in the seaside village and its surrounding area, while Muirhevnamor will also be a firm target for them, especially for Meenan who was first elected for the area in 1999.

There have also been representative retirements from the area including the veteran independent Martin Bellew and 2009 newcomer Alan Grehan. Where will their votes go – back to established parties or onto other independents?

And will Morgan be wounded politically by the Facebook scandal earlier this month or will voters flock to support him?

This may be an easier constituency to negotiate compared to the mountainous and spread-out area of Dundalk Carlingford and there are fewer candidates battling for more seats, but the newcomers in Dundalk South may find it harder than their counterparts to fight off the stiff competition from the well-established political names here.

Again, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, both of whom are running three candidates, need to be particularly disciplined when it comes to vote management and the distribution of areas among their candidates.

Make no mistake: Dundalk Carlingford might be the bloodbath, but Dundalk South could see the fall of some giants – just remember the epic two-day recount that gave Grehan the last seat over Fianna Fail's Donal Lynch.

The Argus

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