The TDs Facing A Battle
CONSTITUENCY REFORM:With just eight constituencies untouched by changes to seats or boundaries by the Constituency Commission report published yesterday, TDs from all parties are concerned about keeping their seats in the next general election.
A stoical Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil probably put it best when he said: “You always have winners and losers when these boundary reports come out.”
Some TDs leaving Leinster House to spend the weekend in their constituencies yesterday were contemplating crossing county boundaries to introduce themselves to potential voters.
Others were trying to get used to exotic new names such as “Dublin Bay South”.
Here are the 13 TDs most vulnerable to the boundary changes:
1. Paschal Donohoe (FG)
Donohoe seems most likely to come under pressure when Dublin Central loses a seat to become a three-seater.
Labour Minister of State Joe Costello once joked that he expected a vote from President Michael D Higgins when he moved into Áras an Uachtaráin. The Phoenix Park has been controversially cut out of the constituency, however. Independent Maureen O’Sullivan could come under pressure if Sinn Féin is on the march.
2. Colm Keaveney (Lab)
Galway East loses a chunk of its territory and some 20,500 voters to neighbouring Roscommon- Galway. The move from four to three seats creates volatility in the constituency. Tuam-based Colm Keaveney of Labour and Paul Connaughton jnr of Fine Gael, whose heartland is transferred, will feel dispirited.
The Connaughton brand remains strong in the area, however. Ciarán Cannon may find being a junior minister a disadvantage when the votes are counted and may have his work cut out for him.
3. Jerry Buttimer (FG)
Cork South Central
Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer, who loses his Bishopstown heartland, is not the only Cork South Central representative with a job of work to do in what will become a four-seater. Labour’s Ciarán Lynch could also struggle here.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath, who shares the constituency with his leader Micheál Martin, yesterday said the party faced “a very serious challenge to hold two seats” next time.
4. Tom Fleming (Ind)
The Constituency Commission has decided that the “kingdom”, with a population of more than 145,500, should be united into one five-seat constituency.
The consensus in Leinster House yesterday was that Independent Tom Fleming would lose out. The publican, formerly of Fianna Fáil, secured 6,416 first preferences. He was not far behind Independent Michael Healy-Rae, however, and ended up ahead of him on the final count.
5. Frank Feighan (FG)
Roscommon South Leitrim
Still resented by Roscommon Hospital protesters, Boyle-based Frank Feighan of Fine Gael would appear to have most to lose when his constituency is linked to another county west of the Shannon.
Seasoned political observers around Leinster House wryly suggested that Denis Naughten, who moved to the Independent benches over the hospital controversy, could not have drawn the new
Roscommon-Galway boundaries better himself.
6. Noel Coonan (FG)
Tipperary North and South, both three-seaters, will be united to form a single constituency, but six into five does not go. Fine Gael’s Noel Coonan may suffer most when almost 11,000 voters find themselves transferred to Offaly.
Labour’s Alan Kelly in Nenagh and Séamus Healy, a member of the United Left Alliance (ULA) who represents the Unemployed Action Group in Tipperary South, will also feel concerned.
7. Thomas Pringle (Ind)
Donegal South West
Voters in Donegal towns Bundoran and Ballyshannon will be represented by a Sligo-Leitrim TD after the next general election.
This makes the left-wing Independent Thomas Pringle vulnerable, especially with Sinn Féin on the rise in the county. Fine Gael will also be nervous about retaining a second seat in Donegal, where it is currently represented by Joe McHugh (North East) and Dinny McGinley (South West).
8. Peter Mathews (FG)
9. Alex White (Lab)
The ever-volatile five-seat Dublin South constituency becomes a three-seater with a new name: Dublin Rathdown. Lost to Dublin South West will be Rathfarnham, Edmonstown, Firhouse and Ballyboden.
The Rathfarnham-based Labour TD Alex White may well run into trouble as a consequence. Fine Gael cannot repeat the hat-trick and so consideration will have to be given to switching constituencies. Peter Mathews could be vulnerable.
10. John O’Mahony (FG)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s own constituency, where Fine Gael secured an astonishing four out of five seats, loses territory to Galway West. A reduction to four seats means at least one Fine Gael seat must go.
Michelle Mulherin has boosted her profile, so John O’Mahony may make an exit. Rumours persist that he has an eye on the European Parliament. Despite his protestations, Michael Ring will not feel the pinch.
11. Michael Conaghan (Lab)
Dublin South Central
Labour will struggle to retain two seats when Dublin South Central loses a TD’s position.
The transfer of more than 12,500 voters to the former Dublin South East constituency means Terenure-based Eric Byrne will no longer be able to vote for himself. His party colleague Michael Conaghan may prove more vulnerable than the poll-topper, however. Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne will not like the changes either.
12. Seán Kenny (Lab)
Dublin North East
With Dublin North East and Dublin North Central deemed “not sustainable” as separate three- seaters, six sitting TDs, along with ambitious newcomers, will be fighting it out for five places in the large new Dublin Bay North constituency. Labour would be doing well to return two TDs. With a number of strong left-wing contenders, Seán Kenny (69) may not be back in the Dáil come 2016.
13. Seán Conlan (FG)
With this five-seater losing a seat, one Fine Gael TD will almost certainly lose out. The disappearance of a portion of west Cavan into the Sligo-Leitrim constituency will affect final tallies. Heather Humphreys’s connection to the so-called Protestant vote may make her
less vulnerable to an anti- government swing, while the Ballybay-based Seán Conlon could be the loser here.