Monday, November 15, 2010

Little old Louth

Once upon a time I would have considered Louth, the smallest county in Ireland, to be quite the boring place electorally. From 1982 to 2002 there were 2FF, 1FG and 1Lab returned (in various orders) over the course of the 5 elections. Despite being on the border the SF vote never materialized into a serious challenge for a seat since the heady days of the civil war.

Then in 2002, Arthur Morgan made the breakthrough for Sinn Fein and ousted Michael Bell, to take a seat which he held in the 2007 election. Following the boundary review, the Louth constituency was extended to a 5 seater with some sections of Co Meath near Drogheda transferred to the constituency. The excitement continued when the resignation of John O'Donoghue resulted in the appointment of "Captain" Seamus Kirk as Ceann Comhairle, effectively turning Louth back into a 4 seater. At the time, this would have been seen by FF as a way to try and return 3 deputies from the constituency as they would have hoped to get two elected on preferences. Obviously with the further decline in FF support in the polls, it is still highly likely that Dermot Ahern will be re-elected thereby returning two FF TDs in Louth.

Last week, Morgan announced that he would not be seeking a nomination for the next general election, citing his desire to get back into the family business. To most that was seen as a passing of the torch to the next generation in Louth SF, with Tom├ís Sharkey most likely to win the nomination. Having won a seat on the council in 2004 and then almost doubling his vote in 2009, along with his exposure during the European elections he would have been seen as a fairly safe selection to replace Morgan. However, yesterday, Gerry Adams threw a massive cat amongst the pigeons by announcing that he was going to seek a nomination in Louth, resign as an MLA and then abdicate his seat in Westminster should he be elected to the Dáil.

So looking at the next election we have the following possibilities
  • FF - Kirk automatically re-elected. Ahern and AN Other on the ballot paper. It would be a massive admission of defeat not to run two candidates
  • FG - Fergus O'Dowd and AN Other. Mairead McGuinness ran here before, but I don't see her giving up the MEP role that easily.
  • Lab - Ger Nash - with the additional commuter votes in the Drogheda area, Nash should be in the running this time out.
  • Green - Mark Dearey, recently appointed to the Seanad
  • SF - Gerry Adams. The big question is whether SF will play it safe and have Adams romp home topping the poll or will he try to capitalize on his personal vote and bring in Sharkey as a running mate.

At this stage, based on a two North, two South split I'm calling it Ahern and Adams as the Dundalkites and O'Dowd and Nash getting the nod in Drogheda with Kirk as #5. However, as always, candidate selection will make all the difference and you could easily see Nash loosing out to a 2nd SF or a strong 2nd FG candidate. Watch this space with interest.

In terms of Adams' political future in the south, it is somewhat odd that he chose to land in one of the safest SF seats rather than try to win a seat that would have been considered un-winnable for the party up until now. Places like Dublin West, Dublin Central and Cork North Central would all be potential gains. I guess the long game is getting above 7 TDs elected and then having Adams act as de-facto leader of the opposition against an FG/L government since FF won't really be in a position to say much, due to the mess they will have left behind. Running Adams in a place where he might not have won would scupper this strategy. Who'd have ever thought that SF can play it safe at times?!

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