Constituency Profile: Laois

A running joke in Leinster House before the Dáil broke was simply how fast one could say the three names of the individuals who are expected to retain their seats.
Constituency Profile: Laois

Not forgetting the fact that Laois, a new three-seater, has broken away from Offaly and is added to by six areas from Kildare South, no huge changes are expected here on polling day.

But all has changed since this two-county constituency was once a comfortable place for Fianna Fáil, including when former taoiseach Brian Cowen won more than 19,000 first preferences here in 2007.

Burning issues for voters include whether 24-hour emergency care will be retained at the Midlands Hospital in Portlaoise.

Rural crime is also a worry for voters.

Laois used to be a commuter county along with parts of Kildare and some of the empty housing stock is problematic. Some of the ghost estates are a reminder of what went wrong in the boom.

But still, other issues are similar to those that existed during the Celtic Tiger, including concern about the cost of travel for commuters and the cost of childcare.

Observers say that outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan should top the poll, with Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming, the party’s spokesman on public expenditure.

Flanagan, whose father Oliver J Flanagan held his seat in the old constituency for 44 years, is facing his seventh election. His running mate though Thomasina Connell has yet to make an impact locally.

Elsewhere, Labour’s John Whelan will put up a good fight. But the high-profile senator and former editor, like his party, is likely to be disappointed on the day. Whelan’s anti-wind power campaigning though could bring him close.

But the same benefits are likely instead to reelect Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley.

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