Only a sober electorate can deal with stern hurdles


KEVIN MYERS AT LARGE: If they are nothing else, general elections are tests of the electorate's sobriety. No less than 10 constituencies have candidates sharing the same surname, a stern hurdle for anybody who's been at the cooking sherry.

Carlow-Kilkenny has two Nolans, Cavan-Monaghan has a brace of Smiths, and a pair of Breens are standing in Clare. Cork North West is already represented by a couple of Moynihans, and two Powers are competing in Kildare South. A brace of Byrnes are in contest for Dublin South Central. Two independent Ryans are standing for Limerick East, and two Kellys in Longford- Roscommon. A couple of Crowleys are competing for Mayo, and a duo of Doyles for Wexford.

Only two people called Murphy - the commonest name in Ireland - are in the 450 candidates for the 29th Dáil. One of them, a Sinn Féin candidate for Cork East, is called June, a name one associates with sewing circles and vicars' wives rather than with an organisation which has a seat on the IRA army council. But then, clearly Sinn Féin in Cork is cut from an unusual nomenclatural cloth - its candidate for the North Central constituency is called Jonathan, a name similarly more often found in the rectory.

That Jonathan is one of only three O'Briens competing for a seat, perhaps because they and the Murphys have been made more politically reticent by the sheer commoness of their names; but not so the Kellys, 13 of whom are standing in the election.

One of their number, Nicky, is in Wicklow, where six candidates have surnames starting with K; you may list your favourites between Keane, Kearns, Keddy, Kelly, Kennedy and Kenny, and then ask for assistance out of the polling booth. Things are much the same in Mayo where half a dozen candidates have names starting with C - Caffrey, Carthy, Chambers, Cooper-Flynn, Crowley and Crowley.

God bless unconventionality. How many voters will with relief give the independent Miranda Ó Bolguidhír their first preference in Wexford, as opposed to the Doyles, Dempseys, Darcys, and Dwyers dancing before their eyes on the ballot-paper? It's a shame that Michaels Ring and Bell don't share the same constituency. Still, the Dáil is less a belfry than a menagerie, so a Rabbitte and a Crowe, both Dublin South West should feel at home there, as might the Fox from Wicklow. And the Stagg in Kildare is faunally favoured twice over: Emmet means "ant". And do we hear Lyons Howlin in Woods, candidates respectively for Galway West, Wexford and Dublin North East? But most of all, how grateful we are to Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Fein's candidate for Dublin South Central for making this possible - most Shinners prefer to be seen awash in an emerald sheen crying, "Look at Ó Snodaigh, spray-painting his bodaigh.

Even our Aengus is green!"