Countdown begins to March 11 General Election

The people of Ireland will go to the polls on Friday March 11 in what will undoubtedly be one of the most highly anticipated general elections in decades.

Political commentators are confident that Fianna Fáil will suffer a hammering and re-elect perhaps as few as 20 or 25 TDs. That paves the way for Fine Gael, Labour, and others to pick up an additional 45 or more seats among them.

There will certainly be a change in the local political landscape with Deputy Beverley Flynn having announced her retirement. Junior Minister Dara Calleary is confident of the party retaining two seats, but who Minister Calleary’s running mate will be remains to be seen. A meeting of the Mayo Dáil Ceanntair last night was due to set a date for the selection convention, with Michael Smyth confirmed as a possible candidate. At the time of going to print the party still had not decided on a two or three candidate strategy, but Dáil Ceanntair chairman Sean Staunton told the Mayo Advertiser that they would consider any other possible candidacies and names being mentioned yesterday included Cllr Al McDonnell, former councillor and senator Frank Chambers, and Denis Gallagher. The party’s strategy will be determined by headquarters, but Mr Staunton said they would be making strong recommendations to Dublin following last night’s meeting.

Mr Staunton also admitted that it would be a “big challenge” for Fianna Fáil to retain two seats in Mayo but he said “a real effort” would be made.

Dermot Flanagan, who last Friday declared his intention to seek a nomination for Fianna Fáil and withdrew it again on Monday, was expected to address the organisation’s meeting last night to discuss his U-turn.

Fine Gael have been the most organised party in the county with deputies Enda Kenny, John O’Mahony, and Michael Ring hoping to retain their seats and Cllr Michelle Mulherin looking to upset the applecart and giving both Minister Calleary and Deputy O’Mahony a run for their money.

Elsewhere Ballina Independent town and county councillor Gerry Ginty has admitted he was seriously considering running, but his departure from the town and county council would give way to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael respectively picking up an extra seat should he be elected. For this reason he has ruled himself out.Castlebar’s popular Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne has yet to declare his intention and he told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday (Thursday ) that he will announce his decision about whether or not to run in a few days, after consulting “his people”.

Sinn Féin’s selection convention takes place on Sunday with their three elected councillors — Gerry Murray, Rose Conway-Walsh, and Therese Ruane — the main contenders.

Meanwhile Labour will be putting forward former independent TD Jerry Cowley, who lost his seat 2007.

Who will be our next Taoiseach? All going to plan it seems Enda Kenny’s time is now. Who will lead Fianna Fáil following the election? Possible a Mayo man too. It is something Minister Calleary has admitted he aspires to. However he is adamant his focus remains on getting re-elected. Resigned to the fact that should he be re-elected he will serve as a back bencher, Minister Calleary is confident he can still deliver for Mayo. “I will work within the structures,” he said. “I don’t differentiate with colleagues with regard to parties. I have the experience and relationships in place to get the work done.”


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