Election 2020: Louth constituency profile
‘No one wants to be the person who loses Gerry Adams’s seat,’ notes one of Sinn Féin’s candidates
Fergus O’Dowd, a former Fine Gael junior minister and TD since 2002, looks guaranteed to be re-elected. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Louth (five seats)
Current: 2 SF, 1 FF, 1 FG, 1 Ind
This constituency could see the five seats shared among five parties.
There is expected to be at least a seat each for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin in this border constituency, but winning a second would be challenging for each of these parties.
Declan Breathnach, who won a seat for Fianna Fáil in 2016, and Fergus O’Dowd, a former Fine Gael junior minister and TD since 2002, look guaranteed to be re-elected.
Sinn Féin will be keen to hold on to the seat that party grandee Gerry Adams is vacating on his retirement. The pressure is clear: his successor candidate, 41-year-old Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú, has said that “no one wants to be the person who loses Gerry Adams’s seat”.
Ó Murchú, who was elected to Louth County Council on the first count but in third place in his electoral area in last year’s local elections, has – of the party’s two candidates – the best chance of retaining at least one of the party’s seats. He comes from the republican stronghold of Dundalk.
Sinn Féin’s recent surge in the polls leaves the party with a solid chance of returning two TDs from this constituency, with Imelda Munster, who is from Drogheda, in strong contention of being re-elected.
The battle for the last seat is expected to be fought out among sitting Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick, Labour’s Ged Nash, the Green Party’s Mark Dearey, Fine Gael candidate John McGahon and Fianna Fáil councillor James Byrne.
Nash, a high-profile candidate given his constituency work on the Drogheda water crisis in 2017 and his public commentary about the town’s gangland feud, has a strong chance of winning back the seat he lost in the 2016 general election.
Fitzpatrick, the former Louth Gaelic football manager who resigned from Fine Gael in 2018 and opposed the Government’s abortion referendum, stands for re-election as an Independent but without a party machine behind him this time.
McGahon, from Dundalk, will be looking to win a second seat for Fine Gael with transfers from Drogheda resident O’Dowd.
Struggle to pick up transfers
Byrne, elected on the 11th count in Drogheda Urban in last year’s local elections, will struggle to pick up transfers from his Dundalk party colleague Declan Breathnach. Fianna Fáil has not had two TDs from the constituency since 2007.
Louth tends not to have a tradition of candidates sending transfers from the south of the county to the north or south to north in general elections.
Dearey, the pub-music venue owner and prominent former Green Party councillor in the area, could sneak in and win the fifth seat if the Green wave of the local and European elections of last year is repeated in this election and stretches into Dublin’s commuter belt.
The ongoing gangland war in Drogheda and the adequacy of policing resources to tackle this increasingly bloody feud are likely to be the hot button issues in this election.
Voters in the southern end of the constituency, in Drogheda, Bettystown and Laytown – all dormitory towns of Dublin – are likely to voice frustration at the lack of Government spending on road and water infrastructure in the area that includes the country’s largest town, Drogheda.
Prediction: SF 2, FF 1 (Breathnach), FG 1 (Fergus O’Dowd), Lab 1
Candidates: Declan Breathnach (FF), James Byrne (FF), Fergus O’Dowd (FG), John McGahon (FG), Ruairí Ó Murchú (SF), Imelda Munster (SF), Ged Nash (Lab), Mark Dearey (GP), Peter Fitzpatrick (Ind), Topanga Bird (Ind), David Bradley (Ind), Albert Byrne (Ind), Audrey Fergus (S-PBP), Cathal Ó Murchú (Irish Freedom Party), Eamon Sweeney (Renua).