Constituency profile: Meath East

The three-seat Meath East constituency is an almost 50:50 split between urban commuter towns and rural agricultural areas.

Stretching from Kilkock close to the Kildare boarder, it takes in the coastal towns of Mornington and Bettystown and continues up to north Meath to meet the border with Cavan.

It is a prime commuter belt with many young families in the constituency — which mean issues like childcare and healthcare dominate.

Towns such as Ashbourne, Rathcoole, and Navan are populated by thousands of people who make the daily commute into Dublin. Complaints of negative equity still ring loud in Meath East.

Although Helen McEntee was only elected in a by-election in 2013, following the death of her father and former minister Shane McEntee, she has been visible on the ground, attending community meetings and events. As a result she is expected to perform well, despite the controversial Emlagh windfarm and the north-south interconnector being on her doorstep.

The second sitting Fine Gael TD, Regina Doherty, has more experience but many say she has not been as visible on the ground.

The same complaint has been made of Labour TD Dominic Hannigan who, like many of his party colleagues, will struggle to retain his seat. Meath East has not been a happy place for Labour since 2011; the party polled at less than 5% in the by-election.

Meath East is one of the constituencies where anti-Labour sentiment has cemented and Mr Hannigan is set to be a casualty.

Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke lives in Ashbourne but is originally from Kells so will have strong bases at both ends of the constituency.

Like many Fianna Fáil TDs, Tomas Byrne lost out in the last election having previously represented the area. However, he has worked hard and will be confident of securing a seat.

Mr Byrne’s impressive performance in the Seanad and his national profile should see him home given he is the party’s only candidate. Fianna Fáil has learned the lesson of 2011 where its 19% share of the vote was split, costing it the seat.

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