Constituency Profile - Waterford: Anti-Government sentiment fuelled by hospital cutbacks and jobs crises

Fine Gael won two of the four seats in Waterford last time as voters took their ire out on the exiting Fianna Fail government.

This time, however, outgoing Coalition TDs are feeling the brunt of complaints about many issues, from water charges to housing and wind turbines.

The anti-government sentiment is especially strong in Waterford City, where Independent Alliance co-founder and outgoing TD John Halligan and Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane are expected to do well.

Fine Gael’s John Deasy, further west in Dungarvan, will also get strong support, as he is seen as a rebel Government TD. He also has a good following over agriculture issues, as well as further afield from his town base.

Cullinane, who has run in the past three general elections, has fallen just short on each occasion, but could be lucky this time. In the last election, he got 9.9% of votes. But, come voting day, this Friday, and with increased backing for Sinn Féin, he will be in a good position to win a seat.

Constituency Profile - Waterford: Anti-Government sentiment fuelled by hospital cutbacks and jobs crises

The status of Waterford Hospital is an ongoing concern across the county, especially its limited cardiac service and because patients must often go to Cork for treatment.

This means you can only have a heart attack before 5pm during the week, and not at all on the weekend, say locals. In 2012, 20,000 people took to Waterford’s streets to protest cuts for the hospital.

There are also claims that the IDA have created fewer jobs here. The county has one of the highest rates of people in JobBridge programmes. High-profile company closures, including Talk Talk and Waterford Crystal, have also dented confidence.

Water charges and local authority housing are also concerns for constituents.

With only a minor boundary addition from south Tipperary, the four-seat constituency remains largely the same. The county spreads over the Comeraghs, to Dungarvan, Lismore, and Tramore, while the city includes Waterford City west, Waterford City east, and Waterford City south.

Incumbent TDs Ciara Conway of Labour and Paudie Coffey of Fine Gael will have a fight on their hands to retain their seats, given the backlash against the Government.

Fianna Fáil, which lost two seats here last time, hopes to take back one via councillor Mary Butler. While it is her first general election, the retail business woman, will have help from the eight other party councillors Fianna Fáil managed to get elected in the local elections.

Another to watch here is the Greens and former Greenpeace activist Grace O’Sullivan, who secured close to 30,000 first preference votes in the European elections.

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