If anything in politics is predictable, it’s the Laois-Offaly constituency. The one time marginal has been pretty much secured by Fianna Fail since the 1977 election and this time they field their three outgoing TDs, Hyland, Connolly and Cowen, along with Laois County Council chairman Joe Dunne, to retain their three seats.
Charlie Flanagan is firmly established as the Fine Gael frontrunner and possible poll topper. He’s backed up by Tom McKeigue in Tullamore and traditionally last man home, Tom Enright, who will have to stave off a spirited PD challenge again from Cathy Honan to hold onto his seat.
Labour have another first timer in Pat Gallagher and can’t be expected to make any big impact, while Independent, Joe McCormack polled less that 400 in the last general election.
Meanwhile the election campaigning comes to a close locally with a Fianna Fail rally at 8.30pm in Portlaoise later tonight.
The electorate in Laois-Offaly for this election is 75,120, and the votes will be counted at the St Mary’s Sports Centre, Portlaoise, under the supervision of returning officer, Mr J Cahill. The count for the Leinster Euro-Constituency will be held in Navan, conducted by Mrs Marie Tehan, with 571,694 entitled to vote.
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A survey of those who left primary school in the Ballyroan/Abbeyleix are between 1973 and 1984 shows an alarming increase in the numbers emigrating in the last three years.
A total of 561 people were interviews. In 1986 20 people from the 18 to 28 age group emigrated; in 1987 this had risen to 45, while 48 left the country last year.
Brendan Fingleton of Laois Peace and Justice Group, which carried out the survey in conjunction with the Diocesan Youth Services at Teach Bhride, Carlow, warned that if the trend continued, there would be no young people left in the area. It is estimated that 55 people leave primary school in Abbeyleix and Ballyroan every year.
The interviewers found a great reluctance among young people to stay in the area because all of their friends had emigrated. They noted that a large number of entire families had gone from the area.
Out of the 561 who left school between 1973 and 1984, only one third of them were living in their home areas. 115 were in England, 15 were in America and the rest were scattered around the world. Others had moved to Dublin.
The estimated total population of the Abbeyleix/Ballyroan area is 3,500.
A similar survey was carried out a few years ago in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. Laois Peace and Justice Group expressed the hope that the survey would be the first of three to be carried out in the diocese. The detailed survey was carried out between April and May.