FINE Gael presented a united front last Friday night when outgoing TD Jim Daly joined Senator Tim Lombard at Karen Coakley’s political rally in Skibbereen.
The event at the Eldon Hotel drew a line under a candidate selection row that involved a petition of 560 signatures being sent to Fine Gael’s director of elections, Paschal Donohoe, requesting that former councillor Noel O’Donovan be added to the ticket.
Large numbers of the party faithful complained that the national executive council was not listening to the wishes of the constituency members and some even threatened to boycott the election.
Now, however, there is every indication that the candidates, and the party members, are adhering to Fine Gael’s legendary vote management strategy – a strategy that regularly returned two TDs in Cork South West (CSW).
Cllr Coakley told The Southern Star: ‘There is total support between the candidates in the east and west, and absolute unity within the party.’
That was reflected in the fact that over 100 people from different Fine Gael branches throughout CSW turned up for the rally.
Karen Coakley has been ‘given’ the three peninsulas, north to the edge of Dunmanway town, and the vote-rich pool that is Clonakilty town to canvass, while Tim Lombard, who is hoping to translate his Seanad seat into a Dáil seat, has been given Dunmanway town, Bandon, Kinsale and rural Clonakilty.
The thinking behind the strategy is that Karen, a tour guide by profession, would poll better in her native Skibbereen and Clonakilty, where food and tourism are key issues, while Tim Lombard, would fare better in rural areas given his profile as a farmer and his involvement in rural affairs.
In 2016, Fine Gael turned out a vote in the region of 15,000. It elected Jim Daly, but Noel Harrington in Beara lost out on the chance of a seat.
Dan Reilly, Karen Coakley’s campaign manager, believes that FG’s vote management on this occasion is better because of the way the constituency is divided. He said: ‘It works better geographically, and mathematically as well.’