By Kieran O’Mahony & Emma Connolly
FINE Gael will struggle to hold onto its sole seat in Cork North West (CNW) in the next general election, according to observers, following the shock announcement this week that Deputy Michael Creed (FG) (pictured) will not be running.
Professor Gary Murphy from the school of law and government at Dublin City University said the former agriculture minister is a big loss to the party’s chances of holding the seat.
The Cork man believes that Sinn Féin could now be poised to snatch the seat from FG, no matter who their candidate is.
Referring to recent polls, the DCU professor said there is no guarantee, either, that Fianna Fáil will hold their two seats in CNW, currently occupied by deputies Aindrias Moynihan and Michael Moynihan. Former editor of The Southern Star Con Downing, a keen political observer, noted that if SF’s Liadh Ní Riada had stayed in the race, she would now be a front-runner, following Deputy Creed’s announcement.
Deputy Creed’s cousin, Cllr Michael Creed, has been touted to run in his place. Other names being mentioned are North Cork-based councillor John Paul O’Shea, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020, and Cllr Eileen Lynch.
Meanwhile, FG Senator Tim Lombard said that Deputy Creed’s decision came as a shock to him.
‘Losing a personality the size of Michael is unsettling. He’s a close personal friend who works across the corridor from me, and it’s a huge loss for the party. It will take a lot to replace such a powerhouse as him and his decision not to contest the next general election leaves a big void for the party to fill,’ he admitted
Fine Gael suffered a wipe-out locally in 2020, and Deputy Creed’s announcement follows several others who have signalled they won’t be running. Senator Lombard has said this is a ‘renewal period’ for the party.
He also confirmed he would be running in Cork South West again, despite the fact the party lost its only seat there, the last time he ran.
‘I’m a different machine than I was three years ago,’ said Sen Lombard. ‘Geographically the constituency is challenging, but my profile has changed and we’re better prepared than last time,’ he said.
He acknowledged the sitting TDs – Collins, O’Sullivan and Cairns – were well established, but he said the FG structure was solid in CSW.
Prof Murphy indicated that FG’s best chance of getting a seat again in Cork South West is if the constituency becomes a four-seater, which many expect when boundary changes are announced in July.
‘I expect if Holly Cairns can get elected in a three-seater with little name recognition, she will certainly hold on, given her exalted profile. Sinn Féin will surely win a seat, too (in a four-seater). In that context, I think FG will be in an almost impossible battle to win in a three-seater, and might not even win in a four-seater given Michael Collins’s huge vote in 2020, and FF’s residual growth.’
There was much shock in 2020 when it was noted that West Cork – the home of General Michael Collins – did not return any Fine Gael candidate. The seat had been vacated by former junior minister Jim Daly, who has since left politics.