PÁIDÍ MANNING: Battle stations! How Kilkenny’s General Election candidates are shaping up
WITH the prospect of a General Election looming in the New Year, PÁIDÍ MANNING assesses the chances of the 11 candidates who have so far decalred their intention to contest the Kilkenny-Carlow constituency.
John McGuinness TD – Fianna Fáil
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and John McGuinness topping the poll. Micheál Martin may have stripped him of the PAC Chair and the national platform it afforded him, but locally he’s as strong as ever. The outspoken TD has finely tuned his political machine into one of the most efficient and ruthless operations in the country. Short of running Henry Shefflin against him, his top spot is secure.
Bobby Aylward TD – Fianna Fáil
After losing his seat in the 2011 electoral meltdown, and having reportedly been snubbed by his party leader on the campaign trail, few could have imagined that Bobby would take Phil Hogan’s place in Leinster House just four years later. A big name in a constituency that has favoured Fianna Fáil historically, Bobby is unlikely to be shifted on this occasion.
Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor – Fianna Fáil
Few have experienced the emotional rollercoaster that Jennifer rode in 2016. Effectively announced as a TD elect on the first count by the vast majority of media and onlookers, she lost out on the eleventh and final count. Rumour has it that Micheál Martin was en route to the count centre to celebrate the victory when news broke that Deering was about to stage a comeback. According to the tallies from 2016, McGuinness and Aylward took 1,668 Fianna Fáil votes from Carlow while Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion took 2,885 votes across the border to Kilkenny. Now a Senator and with the experience of the 2016 campaign behind her, expect Jennifer to hammer home the message that Carlow needs to vote Carlow.
Minister John Paul Phelan TD – Fine Gael
Ten years in a long time in politics. The reign of Enda has ended. Phil Hogan has left the building. Brought in from the cold by Leo after years of being frozen out, John Paul has seen promotion to the ranks of Junior Minister. Like all Ministers of State, John Paul will undoubtedly have his eyes on a seat at the Cabinet table should Fine Gael get back into power for a third term and will want to see his two running mates elected, which may prove to be a tall order.
Pat Deering TD – Fine Gael
The political Lazarus of the 2016 General Election, Pat was dead and buried on the first count before staging a remarkable comeback to take the last seat on the eleventh count. Pat faces a more favourable political landscape in the next election following the constituency boundary redraw. Pat can now vote for himself and will be hoping that the approximate 3800 votes coming back into the constituency with him will do the same. He has his work cut out being up against Jennifer Murnane O’Connor but if Carlow and the Fine Gael plays their cards right, they may be sending two TDs to the 33rd Dáil.
Councillor Patrick O’Neill – Fine Gael
A strong performance in the locals saw Patrick re-elected comfortably to Kilkenny County Council alongside his two Fine Gael running mates. Young, friendly and energetic, but geography is against him. Based in Bennetsbridge, Patrick is going to struggle to mark McGuinness in the city, has John Paul Phelan’s political base six miles to the south and is too far down the county to make a dent in North Kilkenny. David Fitzgerald received 5,017 first preference votes in 2016 with a by-election campaign behind him and Patrick may struggle to emulate that performance on this occasion.
Kathleen Funchion TD – Sinn Féin
One of the success stories of 2016, untarnished by controversy, Kathleen represented a new breed of Sinn Féin TD having taken 16.2% of the first preference vote. Backed up by a team of very able councillors in both counties, the future looked bright for Sinn Féin in Carlow/Kilkenny. Kathleen has provided to be a strong performer on the national stage, playing a key role in pushing through important legislatlation in the Dáil from the opposition benches. But with Sinn Féin polling at 11% nationally, they secured just 7.4% in the local elections here last year and there is a real possibility that Kathleen could be a casualty of the post Gerry Adams era. Jennifer Murnane O’Connor and Adrienne Wallace in particular will be looking to take back some of Kathleen’s 2,885 votes in Carlow.
Councillor Malcolm Noonan – The Green Party
An incredibly popular figure in Kilkenny City, it will be interesting to see how Malcolm fares in the more rural parts of the constituency. In a local election where the Green Party performed far better than expected nationally, Malcolm was their only council candidate in the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency and he romped home behind Andrew McGuinness. If Malcolm can stay ahead of Funchion, he may just be transfer friendly enough to pull off a remarkable result. With the Green Party polling at 7% nationally, it’s worth noting that Mary White took 8% of the first preference vote in 2007 General Election before passing out and beating John Paul Phelan to the last seat on transfers. If this dark Green horse does indeed cross the finish line, then it’ll be at Deering’s expense at 3FF, 1FG and 1 Green Party in a photo finish.
Prediction: Miss but don’t put money on it
Councillor Denis Hynes – Labour
Based in North Kilkenny, Dennis did very well as a first time candidate to retain Maurice Shortall’s seat for Labour, taking 1,098 first preference votes. With the Labour force being decimated since the days of the Gilmore Gale and the party polling 4% nationally, Denis may struggle to his mark in the national election.
Councillor Adrienne Wallace – People Before Profit
Adrienne emerged onto the scene in 2015, first running in the by-election before standing unsuccessfully in the 2016 General Election, polling 1,582 first preferences. In the 2019 local elections, she beat Wayne Fennell of Fine Gael by 69 votes on the ninth count to take the last seat in the Carlow district. Now with the council platform, Adrienne will be looking to improve on her 2016 performance and take some Carlow votes back from Funchion.
Helena Byrne – Renua
Polled 288 votes in the Tullow district, Helena was the first candidate eliminated. Like many of the Renua candidates selected for the 2019 Locals, Helena was selected two months out from polling day up against established candidates who have worked patch for years, combined with a party brand that failed to make any traction with voters. Not only will Helena not take a seat in the next General Election, Renua will not take a single seat nationally nor will they take the 2% of the national first preference vote required to keep their state funding of approximately €250,000 a year. Expect the party to die off when their state funding does.