Election 2020: Carlow-Kilkenny constituency profile

Fianna Fáil is after three seats but Sinn Féin rally should see Funchion hold on

Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness topped the poll in 2016. His public profile as well as a strong electoral base makes him the leader in the field once more. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness topped the poll in 2016. His public profile as well as a strong electoral base makes him the leader in the field once more. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Carlow-Kilkenny (five seats)

Current: 2 FG, 2 FF, 1 SF

At the last general election in 2016, Fianna Fáil came close to winning three seats out of five in Carlow-Kilkenny and has hopes of actually doing so this time around.

Party rebel John McGuinness is based in Kilkenny city and topped the poll in 2016. His high public profile as well as a strong electoral base makes McGuinness the leader in the field once more.

Mullinavat-based Bobby Aylward was expected to easily hold his seat for Fianna Fáil and party figures believe Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor – based in Carlow – can take a Dáil seat after falling short last time out.

However, the Sinn Féin surge means that outgoing party TD Kathleen Funchion, widely tipped to lose her seat a few weeks ago, will now keep her seat and record a strong first preference vote.

The Green Party held a seat in Carlow-Kilkenny when it was last in government between 2007 and 2011, and Kilkenny-based councillor Malcolm Noonan will hope to win back the seat previously held by Mary White. However, negativity towards the Greens in rural Ireland may count against Noonan.

Fine Gael Minister of State John Paul Phelan, based in south Kilkenny, likely felt he was on safe ground when he recently told an Irish Farmers’ Association dinner in Kilkenny that some members of the Green Party are “nutters”.

As well as Phelan for Fine Gael, Pat Deering, the other outgoing Fine Gael TD, will hope he benefits from a constituency redraw that sees the parts of east Carlow which were previously in the Wicklow constituency, including his home patch of Rathvilly, return to Carlow-Kilkenny.

Votes in Carlow-Kilkenny usually stay within county boundaries, with a weak transfer pattern between Carlow- and Kilkenny-based candidates.

Deering’s election in 2016, however, proved an exception, with the elimination of Fine Gael’s Kilkenny city-based David Fitzgerald helping to push Deering ahead of Murnane O’Connor to take the fifth and final seat. Cllr Patrick O’Neill is the third Fine Gael candidate this time out and is based in Bennettsbridge. The party will hope he repeats the role played by Fitzgerald in 2016 to get Deering elected.

How the farming vote falls will also play a factor, with the backdrop of recent farming protests having the potential to colour the attitude of those in the sector who may have traditionally voted for Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, and may even push them to Sinn Féin.

Other candidates running include Denis Hynes (Labour), Melissa O’Neill (Irish Freedom Party) and Adrienne Wallace of People Before Profit.

Prediction: FF 2, FG 2, SF 1

Candidates: Bobby Aylward (FF), Helena Byrne (Renua), Pat Deering (FG), Kathleen Funchion (SF), Alan Hayes (Ind), Denis Hynes (Lab), John McGuinness (FF), Jennifer Murnane O’Connor (FF), Malcolm Noonan (GP), Melissa O’Neill (The Irish Freedom Party), Patrick O’Neill (FG), John Paul Phelan (FG), Angela Ray (Ind), Adrienne Wallace (PBP).

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