Constituency profile: County Mayor may take seat off FF colleague in Cork South-West

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony was the only Fianna Fáil candidate in 2016 but she faces a strong challenge from within the party this time in Christopher O'Sullivan, the Mayor of Cork County

Constituency profile: County Mayor may take seat off FF colleague in Cork South-West

Cork South-West is a geographically vast constituency.

It stretches from near Carrigaline to Beara and includes Bandon, Kinsale and Skibbereen.

This, in itself, presents severe challenges to many of the parties — simply covering the constituency can cause a headache — but it means that issues can vary broadly.

In some of the more remote parts of the constituency, issues such as the National Broadband Plan are of the utmost concern, while tourism, fishing and agriculture are all pressing in other areas.

So, too, are roads and housing, while the healthcare conversation has grown in the last few months in the context of the Bantry Hospital row.

In terms of personnel, the biggest change to the ticket is the absence of Jim Daly.

Within 18 months of being elected in 2016, he was appointed to the role of Minister of State for Older People and Mental Health and could have been seen as one of the party's safest bets for re-election.

However, in September, he confirmed that he would not run again and it has blown things wide open in Cork South-West.

It left Fine Gael with some soul-searching to do. It has opted for two candidates; one from the east and one from the west of the constituency.

In the east, it is Senator Tim Lombard, a close confidante of Simon Coveney, who is on the ticket. Even if Daly had run again, Lombard was a likely contender here.

In the west, it is Cllr Karen Coakley who has been selected, though not without some controversy.

More than 500 party members signed a petition to add former councillor Noel O'Donovan to the ticket. Mr O'Donovan left politics in 2016 to become a guard but such was the fervour of the campaign that Fine Gael HQ had to intervene to tell members that they would not be adding a third candidate to the ticket.

It was not the ideal preparation for the party but they can still expect to secure one seat — most likely Mr Lombard.

In terms of safe bets, it looks like Michael Collins is as safe as they come.

The Independent candidate shocked many in 2016 by snapping up 15.6% of first preferences and his groundwork since should see him secure this time out too.

He has put in the time when it comes to healthcare locally, including organising bus trips to take patients to Belfast for cataract operations. All signs point to Collins topping the poll.

From here, it could be two Fianna Fáil candidates scrapping with each other for the final seat.

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony was the only Fianna Fáil candidate in 2016 and she was backed to the hilt: 19.6% of first preferences fell her way.

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony
Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

She was the first woman ever elected in Cork South-West but she faces a strong challenge from within the party this time in Christopher O'Sullivan, the Mayor of Cork County.

From Clonakilty, he is popular and visible, due to his current role, and is the son of former TD Christy O'Sullivan. Local sources give Mr O'Sullivan the edge here.

Among the other runners are Social Democrats candidate, Holly Cairns, who made headlines when she won her council seat by just a single vote. She has made waves since, though, and might be best placed to do well outside of the aforementioned runners.

Sinn Féin has Paul Hayes in the hunt, but the Courtmacsherry man will do well to replicate the 8.5% of vote picked up by Rachel McCarthy in 2016, and Independent Alan Coleman, a former Fianna Fáil mayor of the county, is also likely to pose a challenge to the established parties.

A late addition to the ticket is Bernie Connolly for the Green Party. A long-time coordinator for the Cork Environmental Forum, she is well-known in West Cork and might soak up transfers well.

As it stands, the indications are that Cork South-West is shaping up to be one each from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with Michael Collins (Independent) a safe bet.

    Prediction:
  • Michael Collins
  • Tim Lombard
  • Christopher O'Sullivan

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