Holmes seeks to make bygones of byelection on Meath campaign trail

Labour candidate won only 4.5% of first preference votes in last year’s poll

The picture of a devastated Eoin Holmes leaving the count centre after March 2013's Meath East byelection was one of the defining political pictures of last year.

Holmes left the count at the Donaghmore-Ashbourne GAA club without saying much, after polling only 4.5 per cent of the vote and coming fifth, even behind Ben Gilroy of Direct Democracy Ireland.

The result led to a crisis in Labour, with questions raised over the leadership. On the day of the count, Pat Rabbitte ruefully remarked that falling bond yields "butter no parsnips". Yet, just over a year after the byelection, and as Labour faces into what is shaping up to be another bad day, Holmes could be the type of councillor, with a local track record, who hangs on for the party as the electoral tide goes out.

He topped the poll in the Slane electoral area in the 2009 local elections and was receiving a decent welcome on the doors of the Co Meath town earlier this week as he canvassed with local Labour TD Dominic Hannigan.


The Ledwidge Hall estate had just been visited by Irish Water, with Holmes and Hannigan stepping over the safety barriers and fresh cement left behind after the installation of meters. "Will you help me continue on my work?" Holmes says on the doors in what has become his stock phrase. It is met with a "yes" more often than not, though some say their first preference will go to local Fianna Fáil man Wayne Harding.

There are a few who express disappointment with the Government’s actions, such as the Impact member who, while acknowledging that Holmes has done “lot of work for the area at council level”, says Labour is not doing enough at national level. “They need to be stronger in Government.”

Holmes genuinely seems to enjoy the canvass, and says this campaign is different from the byelection, which he describes as a “national campaign”.

That’s not to say national issues don’t come up. Another voter on a later canvass across the Louth-Meath border to Collon, where Holmes goes to support his friend Gavan Kierans, also running for Labour, says people have had enough.

“The hits are coming to thick and fast, they need to ease up,” says Derek McGuinness. Yet, perhaps offering some solace to the junior Government party, he still seemed open to a Labour vote.