Election 2020: Limerick County constituency profile
‘Votegate’ controversy seems unlikely to hurt Niall Collins in his re-election bid
Even the ‘Votegate’ controversy in the Dáil seems unlikely to hurt Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins in his re-election bid. File photograph: Alan Betson
Limerick County (three seats)
Current: 2 FG, 1 FF
If there is to be an upset in Limerick County, it will likely come from an Independent taking one of Fine Gael’s two seats in the county.
Fine Gael Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and the party’s TD Tom Neville, whose father Dan served as TD and senator for 27 years before him, look safe enough. They each secured just over 10,000 votes in the last election in 2016.
Positive pre-election polls for Fianna Fáil encouraged the party to add a second candidate in the constituency the day before nominations closed: local councillor Michael Collins, no relation to his running mate in Limerick County.
If the farmers want to give the Government a kick in this election, Richard O’Donoghue, a former Fianna Fáil councillor who quit the party after failing to secure a place on its ticket in 2016, could be a beneficiary.
O’Donoghue and another Independent Emmett O’Brien, who is not running this time, shared more than 12,000 votes between them so O’Donoghue, a builder by trade, could cause a surprise in this constituency, which covers a wide geographic area encompassing many small and big farmers and commuters to Limerick city.
If there is a major shock here, local environmental activist Claire Keating could cause it. She is a prominent figure in the Limerick Against Pollution group, which is fighting Irish Cement’s €10 million plan to burn waste at its old production plant in Mungret, though her profile is confined to the city rather than the county as the campaign mainly captured the attention of residents of the city and suburbs.
Still, Keating, a cousin of Limerick rugby hero Paul O’Connell, managed to turn that campaign into an impressive coalition that included billionaire horse racing magnate JP McManus and local celebrity, Love Island winner Greg O’Shea.
Keating, a native of Croagh who works in Newcastle West, faces an uphill battle to replicate that type of campaign in this election, with just three short weeks to polling day. The farming community, a strong electoral force in the county, is unlikely to back this first-time candidate in the numbers she needs. It would have to be a Green tsunami rather than a wave to see her take a seat here.
The hot topics in the country are housing, healthcare and the state of the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick in the city – which serves the wider midwest region.
Among the other burning issues on the doorsteps will be rural decline, the livelihood of farmers and commuting times, with progress demanded on the bypass of Adare, a major bottleneck; the new Foynes to Limerick road; and the M20 motorway between Limerick and Cork.
Prediction: FG 2, FF 1
Candidates: Patrick O’Donovan (FG), Tom Neville (FG), Niall Collins (FF), Richard O’Donoghue (Ind), Claire Keating (GP), Michael Collins (FF), John Dalton (Renua), Séighin Ó Ceallaigh (Sinn Fein), Robert O’Donnell (Ind), Conor O’Donoghue (Aontú), Cristín Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh (National Party), Con Cremin (Ind).