With the Dail set to resume next week after its summer break, there’s no doubt that election fever is in the air.
The Fine Gael party came to Adare for its annual think-in and Taoiseach Enda Kenny sidestepped the big question of when he plans to go to the polls: will he wait until Spring 2016 or take his chances in November?
Whatever the date, what is certain is that Limerick will be a key battleground – a fact acknowledged by Patrick O’Donovan who said that if Fine Gael does not return four TDs from the two Limerick constituencies, it will spell trouble for the outgoing government.
Fine Gael has already selected its two candidates in the Limerick City constituency, in Michael Noonan and Kieran O’Donnell.
Mr O’Donovan, however, will have to wait for the party’s selection convention on Monday to find out whether he will be on the ticket in the county constituency.
With Dan Neville set to step down, O’Donovan faces stiff competition from Tom Neville, Bill O’Donnell and Jerome Scanlan for one of what is expected to be just two places on the party ticket.
Irrespective of the outcome, the party knows it will have to work hard to retain its two seats in the county.
The local Fianna Fail organisation is very confident that Niall Collins will retain his seat, and if that proves the case the battle for the third seat – on the assumption that there is at least one FG quota – may be gripping. Speculation has been rife that poll-topping Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien will make a run, a possibility he has done nothing to distance himself from. If he does declare, he is expected to make an impact.
Newcastle West’s Seamus Browne will also challenge strongly for Sinn Fein, while former Labour man Senator James Heffernan has joined the Social Democrats ticket. Mark Keogh will be lining out for the Irish Democratic Party
In the four-seat city constituency, Willie O’Dea and Jan O’Sullivan will both seek to retain their seats, while Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan is likely to put in a very strong challenge. Other candidates declared so far include Sarah Jane Hennelly for the Social Democrats, Cian Prendiville for the AAA, William Priestley for the Greens and anti-water charges campaigner Mary Honan. With the list of candidates likely to grow as election day draws near, there are interesting times ahead in local political circles.