Election 2020: Waterford constituency profile

Exodus of sitting TDs and previous challengers leaves Waterford race wide open

David Cullinane’s victory last time out was the first time Sinn Féin won a seat in Waterford in more than 90 years. File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

David Cullinane’s victory last time out was the first time Sinn Féin won a seat in Waterford in more than 90 years. File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

 

Waterford (four seats)

Current: 1 FG, 1 SF, 1 FF, 1 Ind

Waterford is one of the few constituencies where several of the incumbent TDs and previous strong contenders will not be standing in the upcoming general election, leaving the race wide open for a surprise result.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy confirmed last year he would retire from politics after nearly two decades in the Dáil. Minister of State John Halligan, a member of the Independent Alliance, has also confirmed he will not seek re-election.

The two sitting TDs in the four-seat constituency running again are Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane and Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler.

Senator Paudie Coffey, who narrowly lost out on the final seat in the 2016 general election to his parliamentary colleague Deasy, announced last December he would not be contesting the upcoming election.

Grace O’Sullivan, the previous Green Party candidate in Waterford, was elected to the European parliament last May in the Ireland South constituency.

The exodus of incumbents and other well-known candidates from the field will shore up the positions of the two sitting TDs seeking to retain their seats.

David Cullinane’s victory last time out was the first time Sinn Féin won a seat in Waterford in more than 90 years. Once elected, he had a high profile as a member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee.

Opposed introduction of abortion

Butler was also a first-time TD in the 32nd Dáil, and had been one of several parliamentarians in Fianna Fáil to oppose the introduction of abortion.

Fine Gael is running Cllr Damien Geoghegan, who polled well in the west of the constituency in the local elections, and Cllr John Cummins. Cllr Geoghegan is the party’s main hope of retaining the Fine Gael seat.

The status of University Hospital Waterford (UHW) has been a major political issue in previous elections in the constituency, and will likely heavily feature in the coming campaign alongside wider concerns from voters of a perceived lack of investment in the south east.

Independent councillor Matt Shanahan, who is heavily involved in the local campaign for 24/7 cardiac care at UHW, is seen as the single-issue “hospital candidate”. He topped the poll with more than 1,700 first preferences in a Waterford city ward in the local elections, and is a dark horse in the open contest.

Labour Party councillor and current Waterford mayor John Pratt and Green Party councillor Marc Ó Cathasaigh also hope to be in contention for the final seat. Whichever candidate can stay ahead of the other as the counts progress would hope to pick up a sizable portion of transfers from the first of the two eliminated. If either candidate were to win a seat, it would represent a big win for Labour or the Greens.

Prediction: FF 1, FG 1, SF 1, GP 1

Candidates: Mary Butler (FF), David Cullinane (SF), Damien Geoghegan (FG), John Cummins (FG), Eddie Mulligan (FF), Marc Ó Cathasaigh (GP), John Pratt (Lab), Una Dunphy (S-PBP), Matt Shanahan (Ind), Bernadette Phillips (Ind), Dr Ronan Cleary (Aontú).

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