Carlow-Kilkenny byelection: Outcome pivotal for all parties

Win for Fianna Fáil candidate would help silence Micheál Martin’s internal party critics

Irish Times political correspondent Michael O'Regan meets with candidates in the forthcoming Carlow Kilkenny byelection which takes place as a result of the appointment of Phil Hogan to the European Commission.Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The outcome of the byelection in Carlow-Kilkenny tomorrow will have important implications for all of the political parties with a little over six months to go before the next general election.

Fianna Fáil candidate Bobby Aylward has been the favourite from the start and party leader Micheál Martin needs a win to silence his internal critics and boost party morale.

Fine Gael has been putting in a big effort in a bid to hold the seat vacated by Phil Hogan while Sinn Féin is hoping for a good result to build on for the general election.

Renua debut

The byelection should also give an indication as to whether Renua Ireland is capable of challenging the bigger parties.

Mr Aylward is a former TD who lost his seat at the last election. His brother Liam was a long-serving TD before he went to the European Parliament and the Aylward name counts for a lot in Kilkenny politics.

Mr Aylward, a Mullinavat-based farmer, will probably require transfers to get elected and will need a strong first preference total to be sure of retaking the seat.

The biggest challenge to Aylward is expected to come from the Fine Gael candidate Cllr David FitzGerald who is based in the city.

He caused an upset by defeating former IFA leader John Bryan for the nomination and initially was given little chance of victory.

However, over the past two weeks Fine Gael has thrown a lot of resources into the contest with frequent visits to the constituency by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Ministers.

Sinn Féin has high hopes that its candidate, Cllr Kathleen Funchion, will poll far better than the party did in last year’s local elections in the county and can build the base for a seat in the general election.

There will be a lot of interest in the performance of Renua Ireland candidate, Cllr Patrick McKee, who was elected for Fianna Fáil in the local elections. The 26-year-old Kilkenny city-based councillor could upset the calculations of the bigger parties

Safe seat

Labour is fielding Carlow councillor William Quinn, from Borris, and his performance will be analysed to determine whether the party’s sitting TD, Ann Phelan, has a chance of retaining her seat in the general election.

The constituency once had a safe Labour seat, which was held by former ceann comhairle Séamus Pattison from 1961 until 2007.

The Green Party candidate Malcolm Noonan will be attempting to rebuild the vote which elected former junior Minister Mary White to the Dáil in 2007.

The other declared candidates are the Anti-Austerity Alliance’s Conor Mac Liam, People Before Profit’s Adrienne Wallace, Identity Ireland’s Peter O’Loughlin, National Citizens Movement’s Elizabeth Hourihane, and Independents Noel G Walsh, David Holohan and Breda Gardner.