The passing of the deadline for nominations confirmed that for the first time in 87 years, the Labour Party has no candidate on the ballot paper in Kerry for a general election.
For almost 30 years, in terms of Kerry politics, we have spoken of the Spring dynasty, and it is a real reflection of the low ebb in which Labour finds itself when it cannot even stand a candidate in the Kingdom.
Leading bookmakers are predicting that Michael Healy-Rae will have the single biggest personal vote of any candidate in the country and there is little or nothing to disagree with such predictions.
Such is the strength of the Healy-Rae vote, that the two brothers have issued a map of Kerry to supporters, instructing one half to vote for Michael and the other for Danny, but with the home village of Kilgarvan left open.
As the campaign kicked off, Fianna Fáil’s strategy to leave Killarney and east Kerry without a candidate and concentrate on north Kerry fuelled speculation that there is a pre-election “understanding” between the party and the Healy-Rae brothers that they will support Micheál Martin as Taoiseach.
The Healy-Raes are exactly the types of Fianna Fáil gene-pool independents Mr Martin might need if he is to make it to the Taoiseach’s office. The two brothers are as safe as houses when it comes to retaining their seats.
As has been the case with many retirees, the retiring Martin Ferris has failed to sufficiently lay the ground to ensure his successor Pa Daly can hope to retain the seat, even with Sinn Féin resurgent in the polls.
Mr Ferris’s daughter Toiréasa, who had been lined up to succeed him, withdrew from politics last year on health grounds and it is likely that Sinn Féin will lose its seat here, when it could have retained it.
Looking at the two other incumbents, Fine Gael’s Brendan Griffin and Fianna Fáil’s John Brassil both may have to sweat a bit, but look set to retain their seats.
Mr Griffin, having seen off the challenge of Jimmy Deenihan in 2016 to remain as the sole Fine Gael TD in Kerry is secure, and Mr Brassil has established himself enough to the point where his seat is safe.
If my predictions of those four seats come true, an issue arises.
There is a distinct lack of representation from the north end of the constituency where you find towns like Tralee and Listowel.
Logic dictates that given the concentration of the other four TDs in the more southern end of Kerry, there at least has to be one TD coming from the northern part.
Fine Gael has hopes for Mike Kennelly, who comes from a renowned GAA family, and is Listowel-based, but the current fall in the party’s fortunes makes his quest an unlikely one, especially as sheer numbers would suggest the winner would have to come from Tralee. I see it that Mr Kennelly will fall short and his transfers will see Mr Griffin safely home and back in the 33rd Dáil.
Fianna Fáil’s Norma Foley is from Tralee and is a former town mayor, and her geographical location, in my view, gives her the edge over her running mate, Norma Moriarty, who is based in Waterville.
Ms Foley’s job will be to stay ahead of Sinn Féin’s Mr Daly, who is also Tralee-based, but as I see it, there will be a gain for Fianna Fáil.
- Michael Healy-Rae (Ind)
- Danny Healy-Rae (Ind)
- Brendan Griffin (FG)
- John Brassil (FF)
- Norma Foley (FF)