Tipperary will go to the polls on Saturday February 8
The general election campaign is in full swing in the five seat Tipp constituency, but can Fine Gael win a seat, and if who, at who's expense?
The War of Independence began in January in Tipperary 101 years ago and it looks as though there will be another war of independents in the constituency in the coming weeks as the general election cranks into gear.
There are twelve candidates declared at this stage in Tipperary and one quarter of those are independents, with three of them currently holding Dáil seats. And, while Mattie McGrath is being tipped to top the poll this time round and Michael Lowry's seat is thought to be safe, the position in relation to Seamus Healy and Councillor Joe Hannigan are less clear - Hannigan, a former Chairman of the Tipperary Football Board will certainly takes votes in the north of the constituency, but will he upset the odds enough to claim a quota and be elected?
Long serving Seamus Healy has always been a battler when it comes to general elections, but he has stiff opposition on his own doorstep this time round with Mattie McGrath, Councillor Imelda Goldsboro (FF) and Garret Ahearn (FG) right on his doorstep.
Speaking of Cllr Ahearn, whose mother, the late Theresa was a former TD - he will be in a right battle to win a seat for the party, especially since his Fine Gael colleague Mary Newman Julian - a sister of TD Kate O'Connell - is also on the ticket. Fine Gael currently does not hold a seat and Tanaiste Simon Coveney said this week that the party has a score to settle in Tipperary. However, the way opinion polls are looking at present, unless a pact of some kind is entered into, FG supporters could end up splitting their vote and have no candidate returned. Remember, they must unseat somebody if they are to be successful. So, who will they unseat in order to return a FG Tipperary TD to the Dáil?
Above: The Tipperary candidates for the general election
Fianna Fail has the largest number of candidates on the ticket with current Deputy Jackie Cahill leading the charge alongside Cllr Imelda Goldsboro in south Tipperary and Sandra Farrell in north Tipperary. Deputy Cahill knows full well that the party is highly unlikely to win two quotas in so tight a political hotbed, but he will be looking to consolidate his position with the help of the other two candidates who will take votes in their respective regions - how many they can claim could determine the fate of other candidates. Cllr Goldsboro is highly thought of as a hard working councillor while Sandra Farrell has been a political activist for some time and is very well known in north Tipp.
Former Minister Alan Kelly would appear to be in a far stronger position going into this election than he was four and a half years ago. For the last election he had just come out of high office as Minister for the Environment with responsibility for many contentious issues including the Irish Water situation. And, the Labour man had to battle hard to retain his seat, while many of his colleagues around the country lost theirs. But, since keeping his seat, he would appear to have consolidated his position in Tipperary and is regarded as a champion of the many people who were let down by the health system, especially with the cervical smear test scandals, where he did so much to expose the shortcomings.
Sinn Féin have endured a difficult time in Tipperary but candidate Martin Browne, despite losing out in the local elections, is well regarded. He is unlikely to win a seat but he will be trying to rebuild a party which has been partitioned in recent times with many leaving their ranks. The Cashel man is perhaps fortunate to be on the ticket at all - Sinn Féin had issued a decree that Tipperary should be a female only constituency, and had selected local election candidate Ciara McCormack as their first choice. But, she withdrew following her showing in the local elections and Browne stepped into the breach.
That leaves Rob O'Donnell of the Green Party as the final candidate. Describing himself as not being a politician, he believes that Tipperary has too many independents who are limited in their ability to make a difference in the Dáil. He wants to decriminalise drugs and treat drug use as a health issue instead, while also addressing climate change.
Nominations for candidates in the general election close on Wednesday next , January 22, so we may well have a few additions in Tipperary before then, although it is highly unlikely.