Constituency profile: Kildare South

Number of seats: 3
Constituency profile: Kildare South

2011 results: Martin Heydon (FG) Jack Wall (Lab) Sean O Fearghail (FF)

% of voters in 2011: Fine Gael 33.33% Labour 27.82% Fianna Fail 21.71% Sinn Fein 6.03% ULA 0.00% Green 1.37% Others 9.75%

Candidates: Martin Heydon (FG) Fiona McLoughlin Healy (FG) Sean O Fearghail (FF) Fiona O’Loughlin (FF) Patricia Ryan (SF) Mark Wall (Lab) Suzanne McEneaney (GP) Declan Crowe (Ind/others) Lorraine Hayden (Ind/others) Mary Kennedy (RI)

Prediction:

Martin Heydon (FG), Mark Wall (Lab), Sean O Fearghail (FF)

Lie of the Land:

A big chunk of this constituency was lost to the new Offaly constituency including areas like Kildangan, Monasterevin and Churchtown.  Fine Gael’s Heydon and Fianna Fail’s O Fearghail look set to be returned as Mark Wall hopes to hold the seat for Labour previously held by party chairman Jack.

Local issues:

This highly rural constituency means agriculture and matters affecting the horse industry are top of the agenda here. Towns like Kildare and Newbridge are home to thousands of commuters who make the daily trek to Dublin for work and the splurge has brought its own problems.

Housing, social and private, is in short supply as is unemployment while poor broadband remains a major impediment to job creation.

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Profile:

In recent days, Martin Heydon’s ‘Back to the Future’ styled video advert has caught the attention of voters here, but also nationally.

The cheesy yet genuinely funny ad, (wink from candidate to camera included) is so bad it is good and Heydon, all gimmicks aside, is a politician of real substance. He is well-liked by the electorate and has performed well since first entering the Dail in 2011.

He was a member of the so-called “Five-A-Side” group of Fine Gael rebels who spoke out against party policy. He later distanced himself from the group before it disbanded.

All indications are he will top the poll and safely return to Leinster House. His running mate Fiona McLoughlin Healy is expecting to perform well and could even challenge for the last seat.

Fianna Fail’s Dail whip, Sean O Fearghail who had to overcome a rather messy selection convention is the party’s standard bearer in this election and should retain his seat.

His running mate, long-standing councillor Fiona O'Loughlin, last year questioned the sincerity of Fianna Fáil's commitment to running more women candidates, as she sought to be added to the ticket.

She too, should the party continue to have a good campaign, could very well challenge for the third seat and her stellar pedigree at local level is a considerable benefit to her.

The big conundrum in this constituency is whether Labour councillor Mark Wall can retain the seat which is being vacated by his dad Jack Wall, the outgoing chairman of the party.

One of the true gentlemen in Irish politics, Jack’s easy manner and affability has seen him elected on every occasion since 1997. A former chairman of the Kildare GAA county board, Jack leaves a big hole but his son has many of his father’s attributes.

A loyal Labour vote, we feel, should be enough to see him home, if only just.

None of the other party candidates or independents, we feel, are likely to threaten, and this is one of the constituencies where Sinn Feins vote is weakest. Renua Ireland had looked to Jack and Jill founder Jonathan Irwin to stand for them but he withdrew from the race on health grounds last year.

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