THE next General Election may seem like a long way away as we approach the second year anniversary of the last poll across the State’s 39 Dáil constituencies but, make no mistake about it, the battle for position in advance of that contest is raging.
While that would be a truism for every other constituency in the country, here in Cork North West, often regarded as a bellwether of the balance of power between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, political life has seemed more sedate.
The entry of Liadh Ní Riada into the electoral fray on behalf of Sinn Féin almost a year ago signalled that the two big parties who shared the three seater between them might face a battle in future contests but if you had said that the party’s campaign in the constituency was under the radar, it would have been an overstatement relative to its visible activity.
The party had no organisation in the constituency since the retirement of Dessie O’Grady, who was based around Macroom, and a large cumann located around Farnanes had gone into the city. Now it appears to have three cumainn - Kanturk/Charleville, Macroom/Millstreet and Ballincollig.
The SF challenger is based in Baile Mhic Íre in the Múscraí Gaeltacht and lives within miles of the Fianna Fáil TD, Aindrias Moynihan, both having attended the same school in Cúil Aodha. A recent Facebook post by Macroom’s Michael Creed wishing that school well as it builds an all-weather pitch won’t have escaped his rivals attention.
The Moynihan clan is nothing if not on election footing on a 24/7 basis and it will be difficult to dislodge it from its prime position in that part of the constituency. On the Kanturk Charleville side of the constituency, Michael Moynihan has been in pole position for many campaigns and he will also be holding on with grim determination to his political destiny.
This week saw a double foray by Sinn Féin with a press statement on the Charleville Courthouse and an event in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh in Múscraí about the sewage issue there (see page 15). Sinn Féin didn’t stand a candidate in 2020 but smaller parties between them managed a quota without getting anybody elected. Given SF’s opinion poll dominance, it seems likely they will be snapping at the heels of the current incumbents. There are other candidates from the two major parties who will also have a say - the likes of Cllr John Paul O’Shea and Cllr Eileen Lynch from FG and Cllr Gearóid Murphy from Fianna Fáil.
As a Census is just months away, the likelihood is that the political landscape may be in for a shake up when the boundaries will be redrawn following the enumeration. Speculation from seasoned political sources, based on current demographics, suggest that Cork North West’s days could be numbered with Ballincollig becoming part of a Cork City West Constituency, Macroom going to a Cork South Dáil area and Cork North West becoming Cork North and encompassing Charleville to Millstreet. This could see Mallow leaving Cork East.
Were Ballincollig to become subsumed into a city constituency and Macroom to become part of a Cork South constituency, including Bandon to Bantry, Cork North West’s bellwether status might move south with it and create one of the most hotly contested constituencies of the next General Election.
In that scenario, the scramble for Dáil seats would become a battle royale in Cork with echoes of the Civil War resounding around the county.