THE vast, rural Cork North-West will be something of a bellwether constituency, with a stand-off between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil reflecting the national picture.
For decades, the two parties have dominated this constituency between them, with no other parties getting a look-in. The pattern has always been the same: they’re both guaranteed one seat each and then swap the third back and forth between them every election or two. With incumbent Minister Michael Creed (Fine Gael) and first-term TD Aindrias Moynihan well placed to hold there, the fight will come down to incumbent Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan and recent Fine Gael acquisition John Paul O’Shea.
In the last election, longtime TD Michael Moynihan was joined in the Dáil by Aindrias Moynihan — no relation — with Fine Gael’s Áine Collins being knocked out.
What might have surprised people was that Aindrias, the newcomer, topped the poll, while Michael was locked in a battle for the last seat with Mr O’Shea. The difference is that Mr O’Shea was an independent then, but has joined Fine Gael since.
With Aindrias Moynihan in a strong position at the southern end of the constituency, that last seat battle in the northern end between Michael Moynihan and Mr O’Shea is likely to be repeated again but on different terms. The FG strategy here was simple but strong, turning Mr O’Shea from a threat into an asset that could combine his huge personal vote with a strong Fine Gael vote and knock out one of the Fianna Fáil TDs.
However, the veteran Michael Moynihan won’t go down without a fight.
In last year’s local elections in the Kanturk-Mallow district where both men are based, Mr O’Shea finished 500 votes behind Bernard Moynihan, Michael Moynihan’s brother, who topped the poll. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil split the four seats in the district evenly between them, but Fianna Fáil’s percentage share of the total vote was about eight points higher than Fine Gael’s.
While that result can’t tell us everything, it shows that this could be as close an election as they come.