While I’ve never had an affiliation to any political party, that hasn’t prevented me from having a keen interest in politics. So, last Wednesday morning, I had cleared the schedule to keep an eye on what changes the electoral commission were proposing for constituencies around the country.
There were a few tweaks, some bigger than others, but Cork southwest was staying the same.
The Electoral Commission chief executive, Art O’Leary, said he was relieved not to have to change the constituency because geographically the coastal community “is long like Chile”.
I can attest to that. I could drive for two and a half hours and either be east of Portlaoise or in the car park of the cable car for Dursey Island. Even then, I’d still have a bit of west Cork ahead of me if I decided to cross to the island itself.
Travelling within the confines of the constituency, it would take me over an hour from my house to reach the areas east of Kinsale.
Since its inception in 1961, Cork southwest has been viewed as a bit of a backwater in terms of the national picture, save perhaps the two occasions when Joe Walsh served as Minister for Agriculture.
Now from an agricultural perspective at least, it has gained prominence.
Unless a snap election is called first, the local and European elections will tell a lot
The sector plays a major role in the local economy and among the current Oireachtas members, there’s a pair of party spokespeople on agriculture, one of whom, Holly Cairns TD, is also party leader of the Social Democrats.
Our other two TDs have a prominent presence too. Michael Collins TD has been very vocal on agricultural issues as part of the rural Independents grouping and Fianna Fáil’s Christopher O’Sullivan TD has increased his contributions on agricultural topics significantly since elected.
Moving to the upper house and there’s a pair of senators elected to the Seanad by the agricultural panel.
Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan is joined by Tim Lombard who was appointed as agriculture spokesperson for Fine Gael. He’s also vice-chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture. So, it’s fair to say the topic is to the forefront of our elected representatives minds.
Four into three won’t go though, so it will be interesting to see how things play out between now and a general election.
Unless a snap election is called first, the local and European elections will tell a lot.
Outside of the incumbents in Leinster House, Sinn Féin is touted as a Government in waiting so it will be interesting to see if its candidate, Clare O’Callaghan, can get elected.
Farmer dissatisfaction with the current Government could also come out to play at the next general election. The Farmers Alliance has stated that it intends to run candidates and as one of its most prominent spokespeople to date is Bantry suckler farmer Helen O’Sullivan, there’s every chance they could be an option for voters here.
Who they will take votes from will be interesting as even though farming plays a major role, there is also a large urban population.