25 Jan 2022

Vox pop reveals interesting insights on ‘forgotten’ Longford issues

Dail Eireann

Anti-social behaviour and street violence, health, housing, services for children and mental health services are proving to be key local issues on the doorsteps

Longford Leader journalist Kevin Forde was out and about in Longford Centre last Thursday to gauge the mood among local shoppers and voters and his vox pop threw up some fascinating insights.

Many political commentators would lead you to believe that Fine Gael’s Micheál Carrigy and Fianna Fáil’s Joe Flaherty are in a head-to-head fight to win a Dáil seat for Longford and fill the vacant seat left by Labour’s Willie Penrose departure from the national political stage.

However, there was bad news for Carrigy and Flaherty in that a vox pop respondent suggested there was no difference between their respective parties and another saying they wouldn’t vote FG or FF.

Issues such as anti-social behaviour and street violence, health, housing, services for children and mental health services were highlighted as being important to Longford town voters.

In next week’s edition we will feature the views of Granard voters.

‘Forgotten Longford’

Longford was the ONLY county in the country without a sitting TD in the 32nd Dáil and the ONLY people that can rectify the ‘forgotten Longford’ tag are voters on Saturday, February 8.

The reality is that 32% of Longford voters, equating to 6,713 first preferences, voted for Westmeath candidates in the 2016 general election.

Clearly, Longford voters weren’t impressed by what they saw on the ballot paper four years ago and with six Longford-based candidates on this occasion, it will be interesting to see if things change.

In 2016, three Longford candidates found themselves lying in 6th James Bannon (FG, 4,639), 7th Connie Gerety Quinn (FF, 3,943) and 8th James Morgan (IA, 3,329) in the poll after the first count.

That’s a cumulative first preference vote of 11,911 or 861 votes above the quota which stood at 11,050. Add 11,911 and 6,713, and it clearly demonstrates that there is a Longford seat up for grabs.
Voters of Longford, you have the power!

Fine Gael battling to arrest decline

Back in 2011, with momentum favouring them, similar to the breeze that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin seem to be ‘hurling’ with at the moment, Fine Gael and Labour hoovered up 64.8% of the first preference vote in the Longford / Westmeath constituency.
Five years later their combined vote collapsed by 32.3% and it saw Fine Gael’s two outgoing TDs Gab McFadden (2014 by-election winner) and James Bannon lose their seats.

FG did win a seat through Peter Burke (a late addition to the FG ticket), while Labour’s Willie Penrose clung on to his seat fending off the attention of Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan following a count cliffhanger in Kenagh.

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy spectacularly topped the poll with 11,655 votes but the party failed to win two seats as they failed to unite behind its Longford candidate Connie Gerety Quinn.

Outgoing junior minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran was the other big winner four years ago. After contesting elections in 2011 and ‘14 (by-election) and receiving 3,707 and 5,629 first preferences, respectively, on those occasions, he tallied 7,585 or 13.72% of the vote in 2016, and was the second candidate declared elected.

2016 general election percentage share

Fianna Fáil 28.22% (19% in 2011)
Fine Gael 23.82% (38% in 2011)
Independents: 25.36% (8% in 2011)
Sinn Féin: 9.54% (7% in 2011)
Labour: 8.72% (27% in 2011)
Others: 4.33% (1% in 2011)

Opinion polls suggest swing to Sinn Féin

The performance of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on the Claire Byrne Live Leaders’ Debate on RTE One on Monday, coupled with her party’s showing in two different opinion polls published on Sunday suggest a real change is taking place in the political landscape.

SF fared relatively poorly in the local and European elections last year, so whether this surge in the support in the polls translates to votes on Saturday week, February 8, remains to be seen.

In 2016 the party also did very well in the early polls of that election, but as the election unfolded that vote fell away. The other issue for Sinn Fein, is that younger voters are far less likely to turn out than older voters.

Sinn Féin and their candidate Paul Hogan picked up 9.54% (5,276) of the first preference vote in Longford/Westmeath in the 2016 general election, an improvement of 2.5% on 2011. But Hogan has left the party and their candidate on this occasion is Sorca Clarke, so a SF triumph in this constituency looks unlikely.

Sunday Business Post / Red C (January 16 - 22): Fianna Fáil 26% (+2); Fine Gael 23% (-7); Sinn Féin 19% (+8); Greens 8% (+1); Labour 4% (-2); Social Democrats 3% (+1); Solidarity PBP 2%; Aontú 1%; Independents 14% (-2)
Irish Mail on Sunday / Ireland Thinks (January 16 - 25): Fianna Fáil 27% (+2); Fine Gael 22% (-6); Sinn Féin 20% (+5); Greens 10% (+3); Labour 6% (+1); Social Democrats 3%; Solidarity PBP 1% (-2); Aontú 1% (+1%); Independents 11% (-5)

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