Wexford deciding factor may be personal rather than party

 

CONSTITUENCY PROFILE:PERSONAL RATHER than party popularity could be the deciding factor in the Wexford constituency where Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour have had a grip on voters for generations.

The last TD elected here from outside the three largest parties was Liam Twomey in 2002, when he stood as an Independent, and before that Michael Jordan of the Farmer’s Party in 1927.

A late addition to the race this year who is hoping to follow in their footsteps is property developer Mick Wallace (Ind). Given his involvement in youth football in the county over the years, Wallace is likely to appeal to a wide base and could attract voters from the left or those looking to move away from the established parties.

Candidate location could well be the deciding factor here and nobody will be more aware of this than Fine Gael’s TD Michael D’Arcy – the only big party candidate in the Gorey area.

A safe bet for a seat is Labour’s long-serving TD Brendan Howlin. First elected to the Dáil in 1987, he held two ministries during the party’s last term of office and is hugely popular in and around Wexford town. The question is whether he can pull in his running mate, trade unionist Cllr Pat Cody.

Cody did well in his district in the 2009 local election but it remains to be seen if the Kilkenny native draws wider support, even with backing from Wexford hurling stalwart Martin Storey.

He is based in Enniscorthy, where returning TDs Paul Kehoe (FG) and John Browne (FF) are well established.

Kehoe, the party whip, has a strong base across the county having served as Macra na Feirme national chairman and Wexford GAA youth officer in the past. He is also a close ally of Enda Kenny.

Having topped the 1997, 2002 and 2007 polls, Browne will be quietly confident even though Fianna Fáil’s star has fallen. The party is running two rather than three candidates and appears to have split the county between Browne in north and Seán Connick in the south. The latter is positioned in the New Ross area – where local competition comes in the shape of John Dwyer (Ind) and Séamus O’Brien (People Before Profit) and Wallace.

Dwyer left Sinn Féin in June 2009 saying the party had lost the hearts of the working class. Any gains from this move will be offset by the loss of supporters to Anthony Kelly, a Sinn Féin councillor. Twomey (now a Senator), fellow Independents Siobhán Roseingrave and Ruairí de Valera – a grandson of former taoiseach and president Eamon – and the Green Party’s Cllr Danny Forde are other candidates.