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Former TDs predict ‘big battle’ for third Dáil seat in West Cork

April 8th, 2024 7:00 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Former TDs predict ‘big battle’ for third Dáil seat in West Cork Image
Ex TDs Jim Daly (FG), Michael McCarthy, (Lab) and Noel Harrington have left politics.

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THERE will be a big battle for the third seat in Cork South West in the upcoming general election, a former TD has predicted.

And the prediction has been backed up by two more former TDs, who also believe Fine Gael could be in with a strong chance of regaining a seat in the constituency.

Former Labour Party TD Michael McCarthy made the prediction on The Southern Star’s The Big Story podcast, which this week spoke to the three TDs who represented the constituency exactly a decade ago. All three have since left politics.

Dunmanway native McCarthy also said the Social Democrats should seriously consider a merger with the Labour party in order to consolidate their seats.

Now a lobbyist for the technology industry, McCarthy is one of the three former TDs, who were the sitting TDs in the Cork South West constituency a decade ago, including former Fine Gael TDs Jim Daly and Noel Harrington.

All three have given wide-ranging interviews to The Southern Star, on their decisions not to continue in politics, and also their predictions for the upcoming election. All three believe Fine Gael have a good chance of regaining a seat in Cork South West, if the vote management is right this time.

Former TD McCarthy said that the current debate about a Labour/Social Democrat merger recalls similar merger suggestions in the 90s.

‘A lot of the discussion is reminiscent of the Democratic Left/Labour party discussion in the early 1990s where they just couldn’t do business, but then Democratic Left came under the Labour banner.’

Deputy Cairns, from Skibbereen, has already said she would not be interested in a merger with the Labour party. However, Deputy McCarthy described both leaders – Ivana Bacik and Holly Cairns – as highly capable and competent politicians, but said the time was right for discussions.

‘I think the Social Democrats and the Labour party need to have meaningful discussions. If you take the traditional Labour vote of eight, nine, 10% … I think there is a co-ordinated discussion required by both party leaders – to talk strategically about the directions both of those parties are taking.’

The three TDs were asked for their predictions on the timing of the next election – which must be conducted by next April.

Jim Daly, chief executive of the Private Hospitals Association, believes there are three options: the same day as the local and European elections on June 7th, a winter-time election, or next spring.

He noted that there is another complication, given the number of TDs looking to go to Europe in June.

‘And if they go to Europe, you could have three, four or five bye-elections and that would be very tricky for the government. If they were to lose three or four of them, one after the other – which would be the likelihood – that would mean an election this side of Christmas.

‘I’d say the June one has more merit than you might think at first.’

Given that Fine Gael no longer has a seat in Cork South West, Daly believes regaining it is just a question of good vote management by the party.

Michael McCarthy agrees that while the candidates are strong, there could be a battle for the third seat.

‘No one would’ve predicted – at least I wouldn’t have – that Fine Gael would’ve lost a seat in West Cork in the last election.

And I think Senator Tim Lombard is working really hard … so I think there’ll be a hugely interesting contest for that last seat.’

He doesn’t think Independent Ireland leader Michael Collins has anything to worry about. ‘I think Michael Collins is as safe as houses, assuming he is sitting on a quota. I think ultimately I would put my money on a dogfight for that last seat, with Tim Lombard challenging very hard.’

‘The votes are there,’ Jim Daly told the podcast. ‘It is an issue of vote management and that’s what it was the last day. I don’t believe it was the percentage of votes for Fine Gael. The last day there was an issue with vote management and candidate selection. I think if that can be improved on, certainly there is a possibility there of a seat being got back for Fine Gael.’

He added that while, on the face of it, the current three TDs – Deputy Collins (Independent Ireland), Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) and Deputy Cairns (SD) – all seem to be strong candidates, there could be a surprise in store.

‘The fact of the matter is that the toughest election you will ever fight is your second. If you look back, the history books are littered with people who lost their seats in the second election, and obviously two of the candidates are going into their second election, so that is always a challenge.’

Castletownbere-based Noel Harrington has returned to his role as the local postmaster, having lost his seat in 2016.

‘I would love to see Fine Gael seat returned, at least one,’ he said.

‘We have had two for two generations. And to have none was a big shock, so we are hopeful, with the right strategy and with the right candidate or candidates – maybe we will run two – we might at least see one seat returned. I think the votes are there to do that.’

His prediction for the election is for a September ballot.

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