Sunday, February 28, 2016

Done and dusted in Kildare South

As the fallout from the election is still under consideration and even the final shape of the 32nd Dail is yet to be seen, writes Brian Byrne, it's not too early to extend congratulations to the successful candidates in Kildare South.

The constituency for the next Dail term will be served by an interesting mix of experience — long-serving Fianna Fail TD Sean O Fearghail, the now well-blooded Fine Gael's Martin Heydon, and newcomer to the Dail but certainly not to politics Fiona O'Loughlin for Fianna Fail.

A political break happened too, with the ending of Jack Wall's representation for Labour since he was first elected in 1997. Commiserations to his son Mark, who failed to take his place in a cataclysmic meltdown for that party, which has long had respected representation in Kildare going back through Joe Bermingham and William Norton.

Looking at the way the constituency voted, it's arguable that the Labour vote heavily decamped towards Sinn Fein, as both of those parties got an identical 11.6 percent of the first preferences. It will be very difficult for Labour to arrest that drift, given the strong organisational abilities of SF, and we can expect further growth from that party. The 10 percent garnered collectively by the Independent, Green and Renua candidates were, by their nature in this constituency, 'floating' voters.

Fiona O'Loughlin's success was due to her clear ability to connect with voters on the ground, along with the experience and canniness of her running mate on how to maximise votes within the party. Sean O Fearghaill has previous form in this expertise.

On a national level, it does seem that the famous 'borrowed' votes from Fianna Fail supporters the last time around were retrieved by their owners, and Fine Gael is back to 'normal' with maybe 50+ seats (TBC). It isn't the first time the party has been in something of an elliptical orbit — 70 seats in the November 1982 elections spinning down to just 31 in 2002, from which Enda Kenny rebuilt things to 51 in 2007 and that extraordinary, and arguably artificial 76 seats in 2011. If you look back over past Dails, the natural position of Fine Gael has been somewhere between 45-55 seats.

Anyway, all this is being pulled apart and reconstructed all over the country by people who know far more about it than me, so we'll see soon enough how it works out. Meantime, congratulations once again to our new set of Kildare South representatives to the next Dail.