Election 2020: Cork North-Central constituency profile
Fine Gael will hope disquiet over Dara Murphy collecting expenses while in Europe will have dissipated
Last time out, Solidarity’s Mick Barry took the second seat in this constituency. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Cork North-Central (four seats)
Current: 1 FF, 1 SF, 1 S-PBP, 1 vacant (as a result of resignation of FG’s Dara Murphy)
Cork North-Central may well be a constituency where Fianna Fáil has ambitions of doubling its representation but with a competitive field of candidates including a Fianna Fáil councillor running as an Independent, Micheál Martin may have to look elsewhere to increase his number of TDs.
The constituency includes all of the city’s northside, which is largely working class with some middle-class enclaves such as Shanakiel and Montenotte, as well as expanding commuter towns and villages such as Blarney, Tower, Glanmire and Watergrasshill in a sprawling rural hinterland.
The main issues are likely to be national ones such as housing and health but one which opposition parties such as Sinn Féin will seek to focus on is the neglect of many northside communities and, in particular, the Government’s failure to commit funding for the much-needed North Ring Road.
Fianna Fáil will hope that Paudie O’Sullivan, who successfully held former TD Billy Kelleher’s seat in the November byelection, will again be returned and it has added former lord mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and newcomer Sandra Murphy to the ticket in the hope of taking a second seat.
Senator Colm Burke is joined on the Fine Gael ticket by Lorraine O’Neill from Glanmire and while Burke polled well in the byelection, he didn’t pick up transfers and will hope any anti-Fine Gael sentiment over former TD Dara Murphy collecting expenses while in Europe will have dissipated.
The word among experienced Fine Gael activists is that their first preference vote may be down by 5 per cent because of anger over Murphy and while that could be seriously detrimental to Burke, it would be extraordinary if Fine Gael were not to take a seat particularly given Burke’s strong ties in the county.
Sinn Féin’s Cllr Thomas Gould, who took a solid 19.7 per cent of first preferences in the November byelection, should top the poll given the Sinn Féin surge in most recent opinion polls including this week’s The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll which put them at 25 per cent.
With that level of support, Sinn Féin will rue not running a second candidate as they did in 2016 when Gould joined outgoing Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien on the ticket and the party is likely to garner well over a quota this time only for other candidates to capitalise on their surplus.
Last time out, Solidarity’s Mick Barry took the second seat with 15.71 per cent of the first-preference vote but the party had a poor byelection when Cllr Fiona Ryan took just 4.4 per cent of first preferences and, minus public anger over water charges which assisted him in 2016, Barry faces a real battle.
Complicating that battle for the last seat, where Barry is already facing strong challenges from newly elected councillors John Maher of Labour and Oliver Moran of the Greens, is the decision of Fianna Fáil councillor Kenneth O’Flynn to run as an independent after failing to get the Fianna Fáil nomination.
The son of outspoken former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn, Cllr O’Flynn will hurt not just Fianna Fáil’s Fitzgerald but also Gould and Barry on first preferences and possibly Maher but it remains to be seen how transfer friendly he will ultimately prove after what is likely to be a decent first showing.
Barry faces the danger of being left stranded by the surge to Sinn Féin which puts him at risk of being behind some of his main rivals on the first count but paradoxically he is more likely to benefit on transfers from this probable Sinn Féin surplus than his competitors for the fourth and final seat.
As will be the case in so many constituencies, the last seat will come down to staying in the race and then picking up transfers and in Cork North-Central it could go any of five ways – Fitzgerald, Maher, Moran, O’Flynn or Barry but the incumbent may just do enough to shade it and hang on.
Prediction: FF 1, SF 1, FG 1, S-PBP 1
Candidates: Mick Barry (S-PBP), Colm Burke (FG), James Coughlan (Workers’ Party), Tony Fitzgerald (FF), Thomas Gould (SF), Sinéad Halpin (Social Democrats), TJ Hogan (Ind), Ger Keohane (Ind), John Maher (Lab), Oliver Moran (GP), Sandra Murphy (FF), Diarmaid Ó Cadhla (Ind), Stephen O’Donovan (Ind), Kenneth O’Flynn (Ind), Seán O’Leary (Ind), Lorraine O’Neill (FG), Pádraig O’Sullivan (FF), Finian Toomey (Aontú).