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Verona Murphy, Peter Casey, the Healy Raes: The contentious constituencies to watch in General Election 2020

It’s all to play for until February 8th.

Image: PA

IT’S HAPPENING. GENERAL ELECTION 2020 has officially kicked off. 

Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that the general election will take place on Saturday 8 February – the first time an election has been held on a Saturday since 1918. 

Speaking to reporters outside Government Buildings yesterday, Varadkar put Brexit and his party Fine Gael’s handling of the economy at the forefront of his speech. Expect to see more of this in the weeks ahead and at Fine Gael’s campaign launch today in County Monaghan.

Also expect to hear more of the party’s slogan for the upcoming election – ‘A Future To Look Forward To’. Fianna Fáil has gone with ‘An Ireland for All’. 

While elections can be won and lost with the utterance of one wrong word or one dismal TV debate performance, there are a number of constituencies which are ones to watch, for lots of different reasons. 

In recent weeks, Cork North Central became a constituency which promised to be unpredictable in this election campaign. 

Three of the four TDs elected in 2016 are not seeking re-election, so we can expect some new faces in the Dáil coming from Cork’s northside.

One of those new faces, Fianna Fáil’s Pádraig O’Sullivan did well in November’s by-election, pulling an impressive 28% of the vote and will therefore fancy his chances in the general election, with the possibility that the party could even fight for a second seat.

file-photo-former-td-dara-murphy-is-refusing-to-put-himself-up-for-investigation-in-relation-to-his-attendance-and-expenses-according-to-taoiseach-leo-varadkar-when-he-stepped-away-from-his-position The resignation of Dara Murphy leaves the constituency wide open. Source: Sam Boal

With the resignation of former Fine Gaeler Dara Murphy, the party announced two other candidates for the constituency – Senator Colm Burke will be contesting the election in Cork North-Central along with Lorraine O’Neill.

Burke also ran in the recent by-election, polling in second place behind O’Sullivan with 21.1% of the vote, before eventually finishing in third place. So definitely one to watch. 

The Wexford constituency has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons for Fine Gael after its by-election hopes imploded in front of the party’s eyes with Verona Murphy.

Now, she is running as an independent, and is continuing her attack on the party she was happy to run for just a few months ago.

She told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke yesterday that she stood over her opinion that Simon Harris is the worst health minister in history.

Murphy previously said her comments about immigration were “misrepresented in the media” and were based on security concerns.

file-photo-verona-murphy-is-is-to-run-as-an-independent-candidate-in-the-upcoming-general-election-end Source: RollingNews.ie

She reiterated that stance yesterday:

“Let me tell you Seán, I am not a racist. I have been continually misquoted by everyone, including yourself at times. I raised the security issue and that issue stands. 16 undocumented illegal migrants arrived at the back of a trailer in Rosslare harbour and nobody can tell us where they are. Nobody can tell us who they are. And nobody can tell us why they were her.”

Murphy said she does not want to reduce immigration into this country but that she wants to stop it being done illegally. 

What will she say next? Her opponents will be all ears.

Also running is Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy and Paul Kehoe, Fianna Fáil’s James Browne, Cllr Lisa McDonald, recently elected Malcolm Byrne and Cllr. Michael Sheehan.

D’Arcy will be defending his record on insurance reform – something that is likely to be one of the contentious issues of this election, while Kehoe will be defending his record with the defence forces. It could be a tough battle for the pair.

Sinn Féin is putting forward Johnny Mythen, People Before Profit is fielding Susan Breen, while the Green Party is running Karin Dubsky. Cllr. Jim Codd is Aontú’s hopeful, while Ger O’Donoghue is running for Renua. David Lloyd is running for Direct Democracy Ireland, while MEP Mick Wallace has backed Seanie O’Shea for Independents 4 Change.

Dun Laoghaire is always an interesting one to watch and no more so than this time around if Maria Bailey decides to run as an independent after being dropped as a Fine Gael candidate for the election. 

‘Swing-gate’ was probably one of the most used sayings last year, with many a meme and joke doing damage to Fine Gael. How damaging to the party was the whole scandal?

MARIA BAILEY 758A9655 What will Maria do? Source: Rollingnews

With four seats for the taking, Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor will be hopeful it wasn’t too destructive for her party, as she hopes to retain her seat.

Cllr. Barry Ward and Cllr. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who both took a dip with Varadkar on Christmas Day will also be hoping to make gains for the party.

christmas-day-swim-dublin Source: Niall Carson

In 2016, Fianna Fáil took over 30% of first preference votes so Cllr Cormac Devlin will be hopeful he can take a seat in the Dáil, with former minister and now Cllr Mary Hanafin also hoping to make a return.

Shane O’Brien is running for Sinn Féin, while Richard Boyd-Barrett for People Before Profit will be hoping to keep his seat in the constituency. Sinéad Gibney for Social Democrats, Cllr. Ossian Smyth for the Green Party and Mairéad Tóibín for Aontú are also looking for a seat. 

Dublin Mid-West is one to watch when it comes to the challenge Sinn Féin has set itself.

The party threw the kitchen sink at the by-election and managed to get Mark Ward over the line, which was seen as one of the by-election’s major triumphs.

The party has decided to run both Eoin Ó Broin and Mark Ward again.

Danger here is that it might split the vote, but Ó Broin has a strong record when it comes to his housing brief, which the party hopes will put him in prime position to retain his seat.

sinn fein 33 Mark Ward with Mary Lou McDonald Source: Sam Boal

If they are successful, it is likely it will be at the expense of People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny.

Cllr. Emer Higgins, who ran for Fine Gael in last year’s by-election is also throwing her hat in the ring again, as is Cllr. Vicki Casserly.

Frances Fitzgerald is no longer running in this constituency, so both women hope to capitalise on her votes. 

Fianna Fáil’s John Curran and Catriona McClean are going forward, as is Joanna Tuffy for the Labour Party.

Cllr. Peter Kavanagh, for the Green Party,  Howard Hughes for Renua and also well-known Cllr and former TD (f*ck you Deputy Stagg) Paul Gogarty is also looking for a seat as an independent. Ruth Nolan has the backing of the Independents 4 Change.

Source: Damien Mulley/YouTube

Anne-Marie McNally was selected as the Social Democrats candidate for the Dublin Mid West constituency, however, she announced yesterday that she was withdrawing from the contest. 

Kerry and the success of the Healy Raes will also be closely watched.

It’s a five-seater, which sees Michael Healy-Rae and Danny Healy-Rae running again. With election messages like this being circulated, it will be interesting.

Fine Gael’s Brendan Griffin will be looking to keep his seat, and hoping to take a second with Cllr. Mike Kennelly. Fianna Fáil is running three candidates, John Brassil, Cllr. Norma Moriarty and Cllr. Norma Foley. 

european-parliament-election Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Donegal is also an interesting one to watch, and with former presidential candidate Peter Casey announcing he is running in the election, it definitely will be in the weeks ahead.

Casey was not shy about criticising the Taoiseach during his presidential campaign, and he won’t be this time around.

While there had been speculation after his presidential result, that he would run for one of the parties, he has announced his going to run as an independent.  

With five seats for the taking here, Fianna Fáil, who had success with Pat the Cope Gallagher and Charlie McConologue, will be hoping they can do well again.

Minister Joe McHugh, who has learnt Irish since he was elected, wants to be re-elected for Fine Gael. Cllr. Martin Harley is also running for Fine Gael, as is Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, who has a running mate in Senator Pádraig MacLochlainn.

Michael White is running for the Green Party, Mary T Sweeney for Aontú, Maghnus Monaghan for Renua, as well as Independent Thomas Pringle.

The other constituency which was blown open this week is the Clare constituency – which has four seats for the taking. 

Fine Gael is running Pat Breen, Joe Carey and Senator Martin Conway while Fianna Fáil is running Timmy Dooley, Rita McInerney as well as Cllr. Cathal Crowe. The Greens are putting forward Cllr. Róisín Garvey, with independents Michael McNamara Joseph Woulfe going forward. 

Last time around, Fianna Fáil took over 30% of the first preference votes, so all eyes will be on where Harty’s 8,000 votes will go this time around.

Another one to keep an eye on is Shane Ross’ constituency in Dublin Rathdown – a three seater.

Fine Gael’s Josepha Madigan may be asked questions about her role in swing-gate, while Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond is hoping to capitalise on the many TV programmes on Brexit he featured on over the last year.

Fianna Fáil is running two candidates – Cllr. Shay Brennan and Cllr. Deirdre Conroy, while Sinn Féin is running Sorcha Nic Cormaic and and Labour is running Cllr. Lettie McCarthy, while Catherine Martin will aim to keep her seat for the Green Party.

Shane Ross will also be looking to hold on to his seat with the minister stating that Stepaside Garda Station will be opening in the next week. Interesting timing there. 

A special mention for the group of death in Dublin Bay North, where the recount went on for five days last time around. Here’s hoping that’s not the case this time.

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