It’s official: the 15 General Election candidates for the Longford-Westmeath constituency have been confirmed, with a couple of latecomers adding their names to the ballot sheet at the eleventh hour.
While the majority of candidates have been on the campaign trail for several weeks now, yesterday [Thursday] was the official closing date to declare their intention to stand for election in two weeks’ time on Friday February 25.
It has also been confirmed that the General Election count on the following day [Saturday February 26] will take place in the community centre in Keenagh in County Longford, the same location as the 2007 count.
The breakdown of hopefuls consists of three candidates each for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, two for Labour, one for Sinn Féin, and one for the Green Party, as well as five ‘non party’ or Independent candidates.
Fianna Fáil’s team consists of two experienced sitting TDs - party stalwart and former Minister for Education Mary O’Rourke, first elected to Dáil Eireann in 1982, and Longford’s Peter Kelly who has held onto his Dáil seat for two consecutive terms. The third Fianna Fáil candidate is Ballynacargy’s Robert Troy, a young county councillor with big ambitions.
Fine Gael’s varied team consists of candidates from all levels of the political hierarchy - Senator Nicky McFadden from Athlone, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2007 General Election; Deputy James Bannon from Longford, a former Senator who was first elected to the Dáil in 2007; and Mullingar town’s only candidate, town and county councillor Peter Burke, who was unsuccessful in his first bid for the Dáil in 2007. The party has a solid one-two voting strategy across the constituency.
Labour’s Deputy Willie Penrose is once again heading up the Labour campaign, with an impressive poll-topping record ever since he was first elected to the Dáil in 1992. His running mate is former Progressive Democrat TD Mae Sexton, who switched party allegiance early last year and is currently a town and county councillor in Longford.
Athlone town councillor Paul Hogan is Sinn Féin’s only candidate in the constituency. He fared decently when he first put his name forward for a Dáil seat in 2007, and the same year became the youngest ever mayor of Athlone.
Independent candidates include Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, an elected member of Athlone Town Council and Westmeath County Council who caused a stir just weeks ago when he left Fianna Fáil to run as an Independent candidate in this year’s election.
David D’Arcy from Kinnegad declared his candidature several weeks ago. He is a first-time candidate running as part of the New Vision Alliance.
Newcomers to the ballot sheet include The Green Party’s Siobhán Kinahan of Kiltoom, Castlepollard; Independent candidate Donal Jackson of Retreat, Athlone; and Independent Benny Cooney from Athlone.
In terms of geographical breakdown, the Athlone area has by far the highest number of people seeking election, with six names from the town on the ballot sheet. In contrast just one candidate hails from Mullingar town, with two from Ballynacargy and one each from Kinnegad, Castlepollard, and Horseleap. Just three of the candidates have addresses in the Longford end of the constituency.