Constituency profile: Kerry

Make no mistake — despite having 15 candidates to choose from due to the merger of two former Kerry constituencies into one, three of the five seats on offer in this sprawling area are already effectively decided.

Constituency profile: Kerry

The only question left is which of the three other main contenders — two of whom are sitting TDs, including one from a long-standing political dynasty — will lose out.

While the geographical scale of the Kerry constituency — made up of the old three-seaters Kerry North- West Limerick and Kerry South — poses a new challenge to candidates, Independent TD Michael Healy Rae, Fine Gael junior minister Jimmy Deenihan, and Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris will comfortably get over the line.

Diaspora Minister Mr Deenihan topped the poll in 2011, and while he is not expected to repeat the eye-catching 41% of first preferences due to the practicalities of being in Government while unpopular decisions are being made, he should be in contention to top the poll again.

Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris — also formerly for Kerry North-West Limerick, a seat he has held since 2002 — can equally expect to retain his position.

However, Mr Deenihan’s main opposition will be Michael Healy Rae, formerly of the Kerry South constituency and a unique political animal neither Mr Deenihan nor Mr Ferris has previously faced.

Such is the Healy Rae family’s stranglehold — no member of the family has ever lost an election — Boyle Sports is tipping the colourful Independent to get the most first preference votes in the country.

However, the TD himself is keen to stress that, in 2002 his own father, the late Jackie, was a handful of votes away from losing his seat because of a presumption that he was safe.

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Where this constituency gets interesting is in how the final two seats will be won and lost.

With Independent TD Tom Fleming bowing out last week, Labour TD Arthur Spring, Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, and Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil have seen their chances double.

In theory, the now homeless votes for Mr Fleming — who is based in the centre of the new constituency, is a former Fianna Fáil member and remains of its gene pool — should return to the party, which won 22% of votes in 2014’s local elections.

In this scenario, experienced councillor Mr Brassil will likely benefit most, as he has a longer track record and is from an area (north Kerry) with a larger population than running mate Norma Moriarty, with further spillover from Mr Healy Rae’s surplus also potentially helping to take one over the line.

However, Mr Fleming’s departure will also benefit Mr Griffin and Mr Spring as a strong rival is now off the table.

Mr Griffin topped the Kerry South poll in 2011 and will benefit from an even geographical split with his running mate Mr Deenihan.

However, while Labour’s Mr Spring is under pressure it would be foolish to disregard a dynasty that runs back to the 1940s.

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