00:00 Saturday 12 February 2011  Written by Jackie Keogh

Thirteen males seeking election in Cork South West

IS Cork South West the only constituency in the country not to field a female candidate?

That is the question voters were asking on Wednesday, after the returning officer for Cork South West confirmed that there are thirteen male candidates seeking election in the three-seater constituency.

Fine Gael's Mary Hegarty - who allowed her name to go forward at the selection convention on January 2nd - but lost out in a straight vote to Jim Daly and Noel Harrington, said: 'It is regrettable.

'While I wholeheartedly accept the will of the party and fully support the chosen Fine Gael candidates, it is disappointing, generally speaking, that there isn't a single female candidate standing in Cork South West. 'Politics is all the poorer for the lack of female representation at local, regional and national level,' said Mrs Hegarty, who was first elected to Bantry Town Council in 2004, and to Cork County Council in 2009.

The two sitting Fianna Fáil members of the Oireachtas, Christy O'Sullivan, who is a member of the Dáil, and Denis O'Donovan, who is a member of the Seanad, are running mates on the party ticket.

Party stalwarts

But for Fine Gael, the retirement of party stalwarts, Jim O'Keeffe and PJ Sheehan, has left the field wide open.

At the selection convention, the branch members voted to have the Clonakilty-based Mayor of Cork County, Jim Daly, and the Beara-based county council member, Noel Harrington, contest the election.

However, on Tuesday, January 25th, the party, in its wisdom, decided to add the Kinsale-based county councillor, Kevin Murphy, to the ticket, which means they have evenly divided the constituency into the Bandon, Skibbereen and Bantry Electoral Areas.

The biggest scramble for votes will probably be in Clonakilty, the heart of the constituency, because the Labour Senator, Michael McCarthy, will be seeking votes there, as well as in Bandon, and his home town of Dunmanway.

The Sinn Féin candidate, Paul Hayes, a former member of Clonakilty Town Council, will also be looking for votes in this congested part of the constituency, while the big players, Christy O'Sullivan and Jim Daly, battle for the lion's share of the votes.

Initially, the ever-gracious, Clonakilty-based octogenarian, Jennifer Sleeman, had allowed her name to go forward as a Green Party candidate, but she had to withdraw from the race because she is not an Irish citizen. The Green Party have fielded another local candidate, Kevin McCaughey, but it is unlikely that he will make a sufficient dent in the 62,000 electorate to be elected on polling day.

Western contenders

In the western side of the constituency, the main contenders are Denis O'Donovan and Noel Harrington. Denis has a higher profile in Bantry and Skibbereen, but Noel has a large and loyal following throughout the Beara peninsula.

In this, the Bantry Electoral Area, the two independent candidates, Paul Doonan from Durrus, and serial contender Michael O'Sullivan from Castletownbere, are not expected to inflict too much damage on traditional voting patterns.

Geographically speaking, the independent candidate, David McInerney, who is based in Ballinhassig, is considered too left of centre to pose any real threat to the more established candidates.The same has been said of independent, Edmund Butler, who is from Garrettstown, Kinsale. He previously stood in the 2002 general election and garnered only 621 votes. Outings in the 2004 and 2009 local elections were also unsuccessful, which means the Fine Gael candidate, Kevin Murphy, could be largely unopposed in the eastern end of the constituency, along the lines of the Bandon Electoral Area.

John Kearney, an independent community campaigner and activist in the Baltimore and Skibbereen area, is expected to get a decent personal vote, but again his chances of being elected - without the backing of a party machine - are considered slim.

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