If Fianna Fáil loses seats, Martin will be blamed

IF, as predicted, Fianna Fáil loses two seats in Waterford, the finger of blame will be pointed at Health Minister Micheál Martin.

Under proposals outlined in the Hanly Report, there is no provision for a radiotherapy unit to serve the south-east. The voter backlash could hit Fianna Fáil the hardest.

“There’s a seething anger out there at the Government’s failure to commit itself to providing a radiotherapy unit located in the Waterford Regional Hospital.

“Both Fine Gael and Labour have pledged to provide the unit if they are returned to power and the isolated stance of Fianna Fáil on this emotive issue is going to cost them dearly next Friday,” said Fine Gael candidate in the Dungarvan electoral area Oliver Coffey.

Mr Coffey is confident Fine Gael will improve on its 1999 local election performance when the party won eight seats and believes that this time round it could emerge as the top party for the very first time.

“We are ideally positioned to make gains in at least two of the five electoral area,” he said.

Labour is also hoping to increase its representation of three and, like Fine Gael, is targeting the Dungarvan area for a gain.

Fianna Fáil holds three of the seven seats in this area with Fine Gael and Labour sharing the other two. While the three main parties seem certain to win two seats each, there should be an almighty battle before the destination of the final seat is determined.

Sinn Féin too is more than hopeful of winning a seat in this area where the party has been without representation for close on 80 years.

In Brendan Mansfield it has the youngest candidate among the 53 contesting the election. He is regarded to be with a very genuine shout of breaking the mould.

The six-seat Tramore area is another one where the Fianna Fáil position is vulnerable. The party is defending the three seats won by Dan Cowman, Geoff Power and Pat Daly in 1999 and, while all three are again standing, together with the mayor of Tramore Blaise Hannigan, they will be put to the pin of their collars to repeat their performance of five years ago.

Fine Gael’s outgoing duo, Lola O’Sullivan and the long-serving John Carey of Passage East, would seem to be absolutely safe. In Tramore, schoolteacher Ann Marie Power the party has a very formidable third candidate.

The lone Independent on the council, Betty Twomey, is defending her seat, and the Tramore-based councillor, formerly with Fine Gael, won’t be easily dislodged.

Labour too will be hoping that former county councillor and current member of Tramore Town Council, Paddy O’Callaghan, can regain the seat he lost in 1999.

The three-seat Kilmacthomas area is another where Fianna Fáil will be under severe pressure to retain the two seats won by long-serving councillors Tom Cunningham and Pat Leahy last time. Labour’s Ger Barron looks a banker to retain his seat, but Fine Gael is bullish about the prospects of its lone candidate, Liam Brazil.

Five years ago, the party inexplicably fielded two candidates who between them amassed more than a quota, but with the vote split and transfers going askew they literally gave the seat away. This time it insists it has learned from the folly of 1999 and is confidently predicting that Brazil will win a seat at the expense of Fianna Fáil.

An interesting candidate is artist and freelance journalist Roisin O’Shea and her Stradbally base is unlikely to help Mr Cunningham. She is seen as a potential dark horse by some but in reality faces a monumental task to win a seat at her first attempt.

The other three-seat electoral area, Suir, is one that Fianna Fáil has targeted for a gain. At present Fine Gael, through Mary Greene and Paudie Coffey, holds two with Fianna Fáil’s 1999 polltopper and present county mayor, Kieran O’Ryan, in possession of the third.

Mr O’Ryan, 50 years in public life, is confidently expected to repeat his poll-topping performance of five years ago. In Liam Fogarty and Noel Kirwan he has solid running mates who are expected to do well.

Similarly, Fianna Fáil will be looking to the four-seat Lismore area for a gain. At present there’s an equal shareout between itself and Fine Gael, but in 1999 Fianna Fáil was decidedly unlucky not to win a third seat and would almost certainly have done so with better vote management.

This time, it won’t have the proven vote pulling powers of Deputy Ollie Wilkinson, but his son Kevin, who was co-opted to succeed his father earlier this year, will be expected to be returned.

The same can be said of his party colleague James Tobin, whose power base is in Tallow and Knockanore, and with Fine Gael’s Willie McDonnell standing down after serving as a councillor for 25 years the Fine Gael cause hasn’t been helped.

Cappoquin-based Nora Flynn should retain her Fine Gael seat, but the party is likely to have to battle to win a second.

Labour’s John Pratt will be striving to win a seat the party has never had in this area. The final outcome is complicated even more by the presence of two independents, John Cashman and William Lane.

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