Election 2020: Kildare North constituency profile
Local election results suggest Green candidate will make life difficult for FF
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy topped the poll here in 2016, and there is little to suggest she won’t repeat the trick this time out. File photograph: Cyril Byrne
Kildare North (four seats)
Current: 1 FG, 2 FF, 1 Soc Dem
Kildare is the heart of the commuter belt, and as such, infrastructure and quality of life issues will dominate locally alongside the big national questions. Heavy traffic, insufficient park and ride facilities and crowded trains will all feature, as will service provision by GPs, schools and creches.
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy topped the poll here in 2016, and there is little to suggest she won’t repeat the trick this time out. She pulls from all parts of the constituency, beyond her base in the towns closer to Dublin like Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth and Kilcock, and the absence of a running mate should further cement her position on top of the pile.
The constituency divides along geographic lines, with the more Dublin-focused towns balanced by the hinterland around Naas, including Kill and Sallins. Several candidates draw their vote from this area, including sitting TD and Fianna Fáil spokesman on science and technology James Lawless, Fine Gael Senator Tony Lawlor and Green Party councillor Vincent P Martin. Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan is likely to hold his seat, but local election results suggest Martin will make life difficult for one of the Fianna Fáil candidates, either Lawless or the sitting TD Frank O’Rourke.
Topped the poll
Martin is a brother to Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin, and topped the poll in Naas while two other Greens were elected in Maynooth and Celbridge. A senior counsel and bankruptcy expert, Martin represented some of the more controversial faces of the collapse, including Brian O’Donnell of Gorse Hill and Tom McFeely. He also co-founded debtor advocacy group New Beginnings, and through it representing lots of hard-pressed debtors too.
The politics of climate justice, as well as his hobbies (he is an avid beekeeper and oenophile) may resonate with the rapidly gentrifying burghs of what has been dubbed “K4”. He may be best-placed to overtake Lawless, who he shares a base with around Naas.
Key to Martin’s success or failure will be staying ahead of Labour stalwart Emmet Stagg, who can’t be discounted. A lot will have to go right for Fine Gael Senator Tony Lawlor (he pulls from the same area as Lawless and Martin) to trouble the race for the fourth seat.
Sinn Féin’s Réada Cronin lost her seat in last May’s local elections, and underperformed the party’s national figure in 2016. At the start of the campaign, it seemed she would struggle to make an impact in a field that contained two candidates from each of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Murphy, Martin and Stagg.
It is now highly questionable whether there’s enough support for a second seat for either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. There is a risk candidate strategy could misfire for either, resulting in a wipeout. The Green campaign has also not taken flight as anticipated and notwithstanding Martin’s strong performance in the local elections last year, he is a relative newcomer in a constituency populated by veterans. All told, the strength of the Sinn Féin brand may propel Cronin into a seat that seemed a remote possibility just weeks ago.
Prediction: Soc Dem 1 (Murphy), FG 1 (Durkan), 2 from Martin (Green), Lawless (FF) and O’Rourke (FF)
Candidates: Réada Cronin (SF), Bernard Durkan (FG), James Lawless (FF), Anthony Lawlor (FG), Paul Mahon (S-PBP), Vincent P Martin (GP), David Monaghan (Ind), Catherine Murphy (Soc Dem), Séamus Ó Riain (Renua), Frank O’Rourke (FF), Emmet Stagg (Lab), Wayne Swords (Ind).