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Sean O'Riordan on the Canvass: Pundits predictions that two sitting Cork North West TDs over the line

Sean O'Riordan on the Canvass: Pundits predictions that two sitting Cork North West TDs over the line
Michael Creed.

Pistols at dawn between a young pretender and a seasoned veteran, both trying to deal with irate stationary sellers and farmers, those giving out about public transport deficiencies and communities worried about rural decline.

This is the political landscape in the Cork North West constituency where the only real game in town is the OK Corral-style shootout between a veteran TD with 23-years unbroken Dáil service and a younger man intent on taking his seat.

In this three-seater constituency, pundits predict, with absolute certainty, that two sitting TDs are already over the line – Fine Gael Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Fianna Fáil's Aindrias Moynihan.

The reason for this, in this sprawling constituency – stretching from the Kerry/mid Cork border, into Ballincollig and up to Freemount, on the Limerick border - is a mountain range, known as the Boggeraghs.

The aforementioned duo live south of that, where two-thirds of the constituency electorate is based.

But the dogfight is to the north of the mountain range, where Fianna Fáil's Michael Moynihan is pitted against the former Independent and now Fine Gael contender, Cllr John Paul O'Shea.

And both agree it is going to be one almighty tussle, which could literally come down to a handful of votes.

Moynihan admitted it was going to be his 'Beecher's Brook', which sums up the battle ahead for a man who has been elected to the Dáil in five elections in a row.

"It's going to be very difficult, a huge challenge. FG is targeting a gain and working extremely hard for it," Moynihan, 52, said.

"We need to have a very strong voice in the Dáil. I have the huge volume of experience to do that," he added.

Previously he has topped the poll, but last time out he could only grab the third seat.

Meanwhile, O'Shea, 36, thinks he's done his homework.

He joined Fine Gael in Feb 2018 and was subsequently made the party's leader on Cork County Council.

A lot of his followers when he was an Independent are still canvassing for him and he now has the addition of a formidable Fine Gael machine behind him.

"We've done a significant canvass. A lot of people are looking for a fresh new voice to represent them and I'm offering that," he said.

O'Shea acknowledged that his opponent "had done well to be in the Dáil for 23 years" and admitted it was not going to be easy to dethrone him.

Fine Gael's candidate last time out was Áine Collins, who got more than 6,000 votes.

As she lived in Millstreet, at the northern end of the constituency, O'Shea hopes to hoover them up, especially as they were considered to be overwhelmingly party votes rather than personal ones.

The biggest town in the constituency is Ballincollig and although south of the Boggeragh Mountains it's open to both Fine Gael candidates.

O'Shea has concentrated his efforts more here than he did the last time out.

Moynihan carried out a major canvass at Kanturk Cooperative Mart, no doubt intent on trying to whip up support from farmers concerned about the livelihoods - and there were plenty of them worried for the future.

Dan McCarthy, 59, a dairy farmer from Meelin was concerned about his colleagues in the beef sector who weren't being properly paid for their meat, "with the middle men getting all the money".

Noel O'Mahony, a beef farmer from Cullen, feared that climate activists wanted herds cut and such a change, if implemented, would have a major impact on farm incomes.

"There are also other ways to cut emissions with more planting and the use of more electric cars," he said.

Danny Curtin, who has operated a fruit and vegetable stall in Kanturk for 40 years was worried about the lack of jobs in the area and the impact it was having on the younger generation.

"An awful lot of young people are having to travel for work. They go early in the morning and get back late at night. We're an old town during the day. You don't see the youth out and about until the weekend," Danny said.

His stall is on Percival Street. "I remember when there were 20 shops in the street. Now there is just one," Danny added.

In Charleville, O'Shea heard from Paul O'Mahony who said there were no early morning buses out of the town and that was making life difficult for people who worked or studied in Cork city.

O'Shea told him Bus Éireann was planning to trial earlier buses to Cork and Limerick shortly.

Harry Murphy, who owns an office and school supply store in the town, told O'Shea the centralisation of purchasing adopted by the Department of Education had done damage to his business and as a result he was forced to leave some employees go.

In the nearby village of Freemount, mechanic John Brennan asked the same candidate why the government had bailed out the FAI, half-joking about it being "a foreign game".

As chairman of the local juvenile GAA club, he was extremely concerned about rural depopulation, pointing out it has become so pronounced they had to amalgamate with two other parishes to put out teams.

"The one lucky thing is that we still have a strong farming community here," John said.

Mary Casey runs a convenience store in the village. She was non-committal on where her first preference will go.

"I will vote, but I won't say who for. I think John Paul has a good chance. Michael Moynihan is good too. Time will tell," she said.

Ms Casey said it was a struggle to keep the shop going. She opens it at 7.30am six days a week.

"It's a struggle. If it wasn't for the passing trade it wouldn't be very easy to keep it going," she said.

Ms Casey said more houses need to be built in rural areas like Freemount to encourage new blood to locate there and counter an ongoing reduction in population, which is hitting a lot of the Duhallow region.

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