General Election Will Change Cavan/ Monaghan Political Landscape

4 February 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The current low standing of politicians in the public estimation, and the immensity of the economic problems facing the incoming government, are not proving disincentives to the aspiration to represent Cavan/Monaghan in the 31st Dáil.
Although the General Election polling day of Friday, February 25 wasn’t confirmed until Tuesday, election fever has been in full spate for some time and twelve candidates have so far declared their intention to seek the five available seats in this constituency.
With outgoing Deputies Rory O’Hanlon and Seymour Crawford bowing out from the national stage, and Fianna Fáil, which currently holds three seats in the constituency, opting to run only two candidates, the local political landscape is guaranteed to undergo a significant change both in personnel and party representation.
Fine Gael and Sinn Féin are launching strong bids to claim additional seats. With a Labour Party challenge and the presence in the field of a number of Independents as additional factors to consider, the mathematics are likely to prove prolonged and complex before the solution to the Cavan/Monaghan “twelve into five” equation is eventually worked out.
THE CANDIDATES
FIANNA FAIL are playing it safe, and have opted to put forward only outgoing Deputies Brendan Smith, Minister for Agriculture in the recent Government, and Margaret Conlon as their candidates. Additions to the ticket were not ruled out at the recent selection convention of the party but this is considered unlikely despite a groundswell of opinion at grassroots level in the constituency that would favour the move.
Dr O’Hanlon’s automatic return to the Dáil as the sitting Ceann Comhairle in 2007 gave the party the voting strength to secure three seats on that occasion. The decision not to attempt to repeat the feat is a pragmatic acknowledgement of prevailing political realities. Indeed, many forecasters are predicting that the party will do well to retain two constituency representatives, and with Deputy Conlon perceived as the more vulnerable of the two runners it is perhaps significant that new Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin will be in Castleblayney tonight, Thursday, to lend gravitas to the official launch of her campaign.
FINE GAEL chose two candidates at their Cavan/Monaghan selection convention – Monaghan Co Councillor Heather Humphreys, seen by many as the “heir apparent” to Deputy Crawford, and Cavan Senator Joe O’Reilly, who will be bidding to win back the seat lost by Andrew Boylan in the constituency in 2002. Subsequently, FG national headquarters added two names to the ticket – Ballybay Town Councillor Sean Conlan, whose father the late John F Conlan was a Dáil Deputy for many years, and Cavan Co Councillor Peter McVitie.
Fielding four candidates is a declaration of FG’s intent to claim a second seat and perhaps contend for a third but much would appear to depend on how the campaigns of the quartet, all strong aspirants in their own right, are co-ordinated if the party vote in the constituency is to be maximised and the full benefit realised of what are likely to prove crucial transfers.
SINN FÉIN believe a second seat is there for the taking on this occasion, and in Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, one of the outgoing Dáil’s most energetic and effective performers, have a likely poll-topper. They have added Ballyjamesduff’s Kathryn Reilly to the ticket in a bid to increase their polling performance in the Cavan portion of the constituency, a vital requisite if the two-seat goal is to be achieved.
Although new to electoral politics, the 22-year-old has impeccable Republican credentials and is regarded as having made a significant contribution to the development of the party’s economic strategy.
LABOUR are again testing the waters in the Cavan/Monaghan constituency, and are fielding Liam Hogan, who polled respectably in the last Cavan Co Council elections but was unsuccessful in gaining a seat. Mr Hogan, whose campaign was launched in Carrickmacross on Tuesday evening, would appear to have a daunting task on his hands to break the voting stranglehold of the traditional SF-FF-FG “big three”, but Labour will expect to benefit significantly from the decline of FF in the polls. The party should improve its constituency performance, but the odds are long on such an improvement translating into a seat.
INDEPENDENT candidates are expected to reap a healthy bounty at the polls from public disaffection with the political establishment, and there are so far three in the field for the Cavan/Monaghan voters to consider.
Ballybay man John McGuirk, a 25-year-old public relations consultant, managed the successful NO campaign to the first Lisbon Treaty vote and was campaign manger for Declan Ganley’s unsuccessful but meritorious bid to gain a European Parliament seat in 2009.
Mr McGuirk has aligned himself with the loose national coalition of Independent candidates seeking to mobilise public dissatisfaction with party politics and promises that he will be “a reforming voice for ordinary people” if elected.
North Monaghan Co Councillor and Monaghan Town Council member Seamus Treanor also announced his candidature this week. A poll topper in both local election contests, Colr Treanor has delineated a platform that is trenchantly critical of the conduct of the outgoing government and advocates a new brand of politics and people-oriented policies.
On the local political scene Colr Treanor has been vociferous in his criticism of the Monaghan mixed use development or “hole in the ground” project and has expressed forthright views on the asylum-seeker issue.
Ballyjamesduff man Jonathan Rainey was the first Independent to hurl his hat into the Cavan/Monaghan ring and has been energetically utilising the social media to assure potential supporters that he is “running and not stopping til I’m elected to the Dáil and arrest Brian Cowen for economic treason and fraud”.
Mr Rainey was a Fine Gael councillor in Fingal until 2004 and has stated that he will support Enda Kenny’s candidature for Taoiseach if elected.
THE ISSUES
The Monaghan General Hospital Community Alliance moved this week to make the issue of hospital services in Co Monaghan once again a dominant one in the local General Election campaign. They are seeking the commitment of candidates to a seven-point plan to enhance the service provision at the Monaghan Hospital site (see separate story).
While anxieties over adequate hospital care remain prominent in the minds of many Co Monaghan voters, the overarching constituency concern would appear to reside in employment. Candidates can expect to have their views on the preservation and creation of jobs, and what measures can be adopted to stem the renewed tide of youth emigration, closely scrutinised on the Cavan-Monaghan doorsteps, with the future of Quinn Direct in Cavan a particularly pressing issue.
But this is an election that will be all about the economy. Facile promises of an easy route back to prosperity just won’t wash with an electorate feeling the sting of the economic crisis impoverishing their pockets and their prospects. It will be the candidates who have the most realistic, coherent and convincing ideas about moving the country in the direction of recovery that will stand the best chance of representing the Cavan/Monaghan constituency in the new Dáil that convenes on March 9 next.

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