#GE16 Guide to Cork SW: A bellwether for Fianna Fáil’s revival (or lack of one)…

Cork South West

Current TDs

Jim Daly (Fine Gael), Noel Harrington (Fine Gael), Michael McCarthy (Labour)

Total seats in 2016 General Election: 3

Main Towns:

Bandon – population 5,822

Kinsale – population 4,099

Clonakilty – population 4,154

Bantry – population 3,309

Skibbereen – population 2,338

Dunmanway – population 1,522

There’s a small field here to date and the following merit discussion. 


  • Deputy Noel Harrington TD, Fine Gael (Bantry area)
  • Cllr. Michael Collins, Independent (Bantry area)
  • Deputy Jim Daly TD, Fine Gael (Skibbereen area)
  • Deputy Michael McCarthy TD, Labour (Skibbereen area)
  • Cllr. Rachel McCarthy, Sinn Féin (Bandon area)
  • Cllr. Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony, Fianna Fáil (Bandon area)
  • Cllr. Alan Coleman, Independent (Bandon area)             
  • Cllr. Michael Collins, Independent (Bantry area)

If you’re a traditionalist who pines for the old 2 ½ party State then this is the constituency for you. Since its formation in 1961 it is one of the few constituencies where Fine Gael has consistently held the upper hand. In 15 elections FG has returned two seats 9 times.

Fianna Fáil, suffering from internal faction fighting dating back to the days of Joe Walsh and Flor Crowley (Father of MEP Brian) in the 70s, doubled up on one occasion in 2002. In 2011, for the first time the Soldiers of Destiny failed to win any seat having been edged out by Labour’s Michael McCarthy in a tight battle for the final position.

For many years there were three county council local electoral areas in this area. Boundary changes in 2014 reduced this to 2. The three old LEAs – Bantry (west) Skibbereen (mid) and Bandon (east) remain a useful geographic guide to this sprawling constituency that takes nearly 2 ½ hours to traverse from east to west.

A noteworthy anomaly from 2011, was the return of two Skibbereen area TDs.  On the previous 10 elections each electoral area returned a single TD and this constituency should revert to form this time out.

In 2011, Labour capitalised on Fianna Fáil’s collapse and to take a rare seat with then Senator Michael McCarthy based in the middle of the constituency. On current poll figures McCarthy may as well just throw in the towel and rest up for March’s Seanad campaign bun fight.  

Fine Gael strategists will feel that with the scent of a fair breeze behind the party’s back it should hold its two seats. Jim Daly in the middle of the constituency will capitalise further on the likely demise of the nearby Labour candidate to take the first seat.

Fine Gael’s second TD Noel Harrington usually only comes to national prominence when he tops Dáil Éireann expense claims lists. In his defence it’s a long way from the extreme south west of the Bere peninsula to the Kildare Street bear pit. Harrington should hold the second seat for Fine Gael but uniquely for a Fine Gaeler may be given a few sleepless night by the spectre of Michael Collins sneaking up behind him.

 Blessed with a fantastic name for a Cork candidate Michael Collins is an independent in the traditional sense. He knows his people, the price of a pothole and the goodness of a grant. He’s a strong community activist in the very west of the constituency.

His challenge will be to raise his profile, collect votes and vital transfers in the eastern areas around Bandon and Kinsale.

Perhaps Collins should borrow from Eddie Murphy’s 1990s film, “The Distinguished Gentleman” and go with the campaign slogan of “The name you know”.  West Cork produced the hero Michael Collins… but he was shot there too. This Collins is the right man in the wrong place for the third seat.

 Sinn Fein’s plot to ambush a seat in west Cork will have to wait for another day. Their candidate is in the right geographic area but the party’s support in west Cork isn’t strong enough to challenge for a seat this time.

The second independent in the constituency is Alan Coleman. A long time Fianna Fáil councillor he saw the writing on the wall with Micheál Martin’s promotion of a new candidate in his area. The final seat in the constituency should come from the east and Coleman from near Kinsale is as east as it gets.

However, he’ll face similar problems as Collins on the other side. His aim will be to capitalise on years of FF infighting to get on top of his local rival and hold on for the last seat. Theoretically it’s a plausible strategy but executing it will be very difficult.

 Cork South West is surely a “must win” for Fianna Fáil. Leader Micheál Martin has invested a lot of personal energy into the promotion of first time Dáil candidate Margaret Murphy O’Mahony. She’s geographically well placed and the party generally has enough support for one seat.

If they don’t succeed here it will be a dark day for Martin’s leadership.

Watch Out For:  On count day tallies will be revealing. Whoever comes on top in each three separate local battles should hold on to take the seats on offer.

Our Prediction:  Jim Daly (Fine Gael), Noel Harrington (Fine Gael), Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony (Fianna Fáil)

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