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3 May 2007 Edition

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General election 2007 : Connacht/Ulster and North Leinster

 And so, we’re off

Welcome to democracy Fianna Fáil style – parliament dissolved in the early hours of a Sunday morning, election boundaries manipulated to suit the Government and larger parties, the electoral register still in disarray and a steadfast refusal to have polling day on a weekend, making voting accessible to all of the electorate.
Establishment media pundits tell us that this will be the most expensive, most hotly contested election ever and the pollsters’ figures change by the week on who is winning the media beauty contest. The only forgotten element to all of this is the actual voter.
Sinn Féin alone of the parties has not entered the auction politics of false promises and is instead actually working on the ground, and with 41 candidates in
40 constituencies, the party is fielding its largest election team ever.
Over the next three weeks An Phoblacht’s Robbie Smyth will profile each constituency beginning this week with those Connacht/Ulster and North Leinster.


              vote    % of poll
1997    11,531    19.37
2002     10,832    17.51

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin will be aiming for two hat tricks this time around. He will be attempting to hold the seat won in 1997 and 2002, but will he be able to top the poll for a third time also?
In 1997 this five-seat constituency returned two Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael seats, while in 2002 Fine Gael’s Andrew Boylan lost his seat to independent candidate Paudge Connolly who ran on a healthcare platform. Ó Caoláin’s double poll topping performance was all the more remarkable given the 7,772 votes won by Connolly in the 2002 election.
There is also the added factor that this time around there are only four seats contested as Rory O’Hanlon being Ceann Comhairle is automatically returned to Leinster House.
Caoimhghín is Sinn Féin’s Parliamentary Group Leader and spokesperson on the Peace Process. He also has responsibility for Finance, Health and Children and has been a full-time Sinn Féin elected representative since he was first elected to Monaghan County Council in 1985. Previous to that he was Director of Elections in the H-Block campaign of 1981 when Kieran Doherty was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan.
A long standing member of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, Caoimhghín has played a central role in the development of the Sinn Féin peace strategy .



Anna Prior is setting an electoral precedent for Sinn Féin in this constituency as she is the first candidate to contest a vote here since 1992.
The constituency, while being a Fianna Fail stronghold, is also one of the most volatile electorates in the West. In 1992 it elected its first ever Labour TD, Moosajee Bhamjee, who didn’t run in 1997 leaving Fianna Fáil to take three seats out of four with Fine Gael’s Donal Carey taking the fourth.
In 2002, a split within Fianna Fáil over candidate selection saw James Breen break party ranks, running as an independent, and not just get elected but top the poll also. Donal Carey saw his vote halve while running mate Pat Breen was elected on the first count with Breen leaving Fianna Fáil scrambling for the last two seats.
With Síle De Valera standing down this time around and a lot of demographic change in the constituency don’t be shocked by a strong Sinn Féin showing in the constituency by Anna Prior. Anna joined Sinn Féin while a student at University College Galway and says that healthcare, the military uses of Shannon airport, water quality and community empowerment and safety are the key issues in this constituency.


Donegal North East   

               vote    % of poll
1997    2,881    8.11
2002     3,611    9.93

The Sinn Féin performance in both Donegal constituencies has turned heads in recent years. With a growing vote surged in the 2004 local and EU elections many pundits are predicting Sinn Féin gains in the county.
Donegal North East could be one of these constituencies as local councillor Pádraig Mac Lochlainn represents Sinn Féin for the second time in a Leinster House election having been elected to Donegal County Council and Buncrana Town Council in 2004, where he topped the poll in the Inishowen Electoral Area.
Pádraig acted as the Donegal spokesperson for the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) from 1997 to 2001. Locally he was a community director on the Inishowen Partnership Board for 5 years from 1996 to 2001.
The constituency is also absorbing the return of the Blaney name under the Fianna Fáil ticket, a move not welcomed by the McDaid camp in the constituency and internal discord within the party is growing despite holding all of the three seats.
Maybe with 66.25% of the poll between the three TDs in 2002, Fianna Fáil know that holding three seats this time around will be impossible, so one Fianna Fáil TD will lose their seat and Sinn Féin is in real contention for a seat here.


Donegal South West

                vote    % of poll
2002     3,829    10.75

Sinn Féin didn’t field a candidate in this three seater in 1997, and in 2002 took 10.75% of the poll running two candidates, Pearse Doherty and Tom Dignam. Doherty has since been elected as a county councillor, as well as narrowly missing out on winning the last seat in the Connacht/Ulster constituency in the 2004 EU elections.
The Sinn Féin vote has been bolstered further by the entry of local independent Thomas Pringle into the party three years ago. Pringle, who was also elected to Donegal County Council in 2004, took over 1,100 votes and 3.2% of first preferences in 2002. This time around Doherty is the sole Sinn Féin candidate and this could be a major gain for the party.
Pearse Doherty, from Gaoth Dobhair, is a member of the party’s Ard Chomhairle and has been a member of Sinn Féin since 1994. He is an outspoken critic of the failure of successive governments to invest in the infrastructure of Donegal. He is involved in many campaigns to end the marginalisation of Donegal and to bring forward innovative proposals to develop the North West as a whole.





            vote    % of poll
2002     1,828    3.7

This is another growth constituency for Sinn Féin, who didn’t contest this seat in 1997, and since 2002, when Daithí Mac an Bhaird won 3.7% of first preferences the party has won a seat on Galway County Council when Dermot Connolly was elected in Ballinasloe.
Jason Devlin is the Sinn Féin candidate and is a native of Ballinasloe, and is now the chairperson for the Ballinasloe Cumann as well as the chairperson for the Galway East Comhairle Ceanntair.
Jason also holds the chair of the parents’ association of Scoil Úi Cheitearnigh and is on the Parents’ Association in Garbally College. He was the secretary for the Ballinasloe Tenants’ Association and is the Chairperson for the Hymany/Curragh Park Residents’ Association. Jason is also shop steward in Portiuncula Hospital where he works and also gives of his free time to help the Ireland-Palestine Group when they bring children from the refugee camps in Palestine to Ireland on short breaks from the shocking conditions they are forced to live in





           vote    % of poll
1997    1,209    2.51
2002     2,779    5.62

This was another breakthrough constituency for Sinn Féin in the 2004 local elections when Daniel Callanan won a seat for the party on Galway City Council. A five-seater constituency, it reurned two Fianna Fáil seats in 2002, with one each for Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs. The PD win was a surprise to those outside the constituency as few predicted the party keeping the seat after the retirement of Bobby Molloy who had held the seat for the party since 1987, but a three candidate strategy elected Noel Grealish on the 15th count. With the water crisis concentrating minds in the area this time around and bitter recriminations growing on the issue between the parties there could be a lot of floating voters on 24 May.
Ann Maire Carroll is the Sinn Féin General Election candidate. Ann Marie became involved in politics through a local pressure group that was campaigning against the widening of Seamus Quirke Road. Ann Marie ran in the 2004 local elections and just lost out on a seat by 13 votes.




             vote    % of poll
1997    3,651    8.11
2002     7,121    14.95

This was one of the breakthrough constituencies for Sinn Féin in 2002. Arthur Morgan, capitalising on his 1999 election to Louth County and Dundalk Town Councils, nearly doubled the 1997 Sinn Féin vote and was elected on the eighth count, Michael Bell of Labour losing his seat.
Sinn Féin made further gains in 2004, increasing council seats across the constituency, winning in four of the five Louth County Council wards, topping the poll in two and narrowly missing out on the last seat in Drogheda West.
Arthur Morgan is Sinn Féin TD for Louth and is party spokesperson on Environment, Local Government and Employment. Arthur is a founding member of Cooley Environmental and Health Action Committee which campaigns against Sellafield and has investigated the extraordinarily high incidence of cancer in the North Louth area.
He is also a member of various fishing groups and is Chairperson of the Irish Seafood Wholesalers’ and Retailers’ Association. He is involved in the campaign to retain and upgrade essential services at Louth County Hospital and has been particularly active in the campaign to prevent the establishment of an incinerator in Duleek. 



           vote    % of poll
1997    2,000    3.53
2002     6,042    9.43

This was one of the constituencies where Sinn Féin narrowly missed out on a seat in 2002 despite tripling the party’s vote. Now, with the result of the boundary commission, the constituency has been broken into two three-seaters.
Joanne Finnegan is the Sinn Féin candidate in Meath East while Joe Reilly is running in Meath West and is a councillor for Meath County Council and Navan Town Council. He is convenor of the party’s Elected Representatives’ Forum.
Joe was General Secretary of Sinn Féin when in 1988 the party first produced Scenario for Peace and has played a central role in the peace process as a member of Sinn Féin’s negotiations team.
Joanne has been campaigning on the lack of educational facilities in this fast growing area as well as affordable childcare and better financial supports for women returning to education and working as carers.



          vote    % of poll
1997    2,000    3.53
2002     6,042    9.43

 Seán MacManus 

 5,001 votes wasn’t enough to elect Sinn Féin’s Seán MacManus in 2002 but, as in Meath, it seemed to give the Boundary Commission food for thought and their decision to wield an axe in this constituency has had had huge consequences. The old Sligo/Leitrim constituency is sliced into a new three-seat constituency called Sligo/North Leitrim while another new three-seater, Roscommon/South Leitrim has also been created.
Seán MacManus is running in Sligo/North Leitrim while Martin Kenny is the Roscommon/South Leitrim candidate.
Seán was Mayor of Sligo in 2000 and again in 2004. He has been the promoter of numerous initiatives to help develop Sligo including the North West Economic Forum, the retention of Borough status for Sligo and the “Save Lisadell” campaign. Seán is also recognised as a leading campaigner on local health issues, he was the first political representative in this area to raise issues such as the lack of “Breastcheck” and radiotherapy in Sligo General Hospital
Seán served on the party’s Ard Chomhairle for many years and was National Chairperson of the party from 1984 to 1990. He has played a central part in developing the party’s current peace strategy and was instrumental in developing its local government policy.
Martin Kenny lives in Aughavas and was co-opted to Leitrim County Council in November 2003. In 2004 he topped the poll in Ballinamore. He is a well known political activist and member of Sinn Féin’s ruling body, the Ard Chomhairle.
Martin has extensive experience of working within the community-voluntary sector having spent three years working with a republican ex-prisoner group, Lá Nua, in Ballinamore.



           vote    % of poll
2002     2,779    5.62

The boring predictably of this five-seat constituency was shattered in 2002 when former IFA president Tom Parlon, ran for the Progressive Democrats, on the promise of a cabinet post. Fine Gael were the losers as Fianna Fáil held their three seats.
Mayor of Portlaoise Brian Stanley is the Sinn Féin candidate and was elected on the first count to Laois County Council in 2004 in the Portlaoise ward. Brian is also on Portlaoise Town Council. He is an active member of O’Moore Place residents’ committee and a director of Portlaoise Community Action Project (PCAP). Brian has a proven track record as a community worker and public representative. An active environmentalist Brian has campaigned for sustainable waste management and the rejection of incineration as a means of waste disposal.
There is room for further growth in the Sinn Féin vote here as the party only fielded local election candidates in three out of a possible nine electoral areas across the two county councils in 2004.





           vote    % of poll
2002     1,673    3.37

Longford had one election in 1918 as a stand alone constituency before being absorbed into a Longford/Westmeath electoral area, and then in 1992 it became Longford/ Roscommon, only to return to the Longford/Westmeath boundary for 2007 as a four-seater constituency.
The surprise of 2002 was the election of the unknown Mae Sexton for the Progressive Democrats.
Paul Hogan is the Sinn Féin candidate who made a breakthrough in the 2004 local elections, winning the party’s first seat on Athlone Town Council. Class sizes in primary schools and the affordability of housing are some of the issues he is campaigning on.
Paul is also proposing incentives for new, innovative types of agriculture. Hogan has also opposed plans by Westmeath County Council to sell off public land and supports the re-opening of the Athlone-Mullingar railway arguing that is important from an economic, educational, and tourism point of view.





           vote    % of poll
2002     2.085    3.28

The entry of independent candidate Jerry Cowley in 2002 transformed the Mayo election. Cowley topped the poll and Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins lost a seat as did Tom Moffat for Fianna Fáil, replaced by party colleague John Carty. It seems at times that there is more infighting in the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil camps here than there is competition between the actual parties.
Gerry Murray is the Sinn Féin candidate and was first elected to Mayo County Council in 1999. In the 2004 local elections, he topped the poll in the Swinford electoral district with 23% of the vote. Gerry is a native of Charlestown and is married with two children.
He is a member of numerous community and campaigning groups in the north-west region and has worked closely with the Rossport 5 in their campaign for justice. The Sinn Féin vote has been growing in Mayo as the party elected councillors to Ballina, Castlebar and Westport town councils in 2004.

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