An unprecedented election battle is on the cards in Laois with the likely redrawing of political boundaries which with cut Laois off from Offaly politically
While all the parties will have to draw up new battle plans to cope with the the changes proposed by the Electoral Commission, it looks likely that Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley is set for the biggest battle of his political career in holding on to a seat which he historically won in 2011.
While the SF TD took a Fianna Fail seat last time out, the challenge to Deputy Stanley looks set to come from Labour Party Senator, John Whelan. Sen Whelan is already bullish about his prospects given that his native Monasterevin looks set to come into the Laois three seat constituency. He said the change is “a good result.”
Deputy Stanley did not welcome the redrawing of the boundary, and acknowledged that he faced a stiff test.
“I do not agree with the proposal to adjoin parts of other counties as I believe the constituency line should be within local authority/county boundaries. For example Kildangan in Kildare would not form part of the natural hinterland for Laois, nor would Terryglass for Offaly,” he said.
While he accepted that he had a “fight on my hands” the TD refused to be written off. He said his Offaly vote had been overstated in 2011 and Laois was his stronghold. While Senator Whelan laid an early claim to his home town and county, Stanley insisted that “territory doesn’t belong to anybody.”
“In 1999 before when I first took a Portlaoise town council seat I was wrote off as a no-hoper. I just get on with it,” he said.
With four Oireachtas members based within ten minutes of Portlaoise, Senator Whelan said Laois was also going to be a “most competitive and challenging constituency”
“I am personally especially pleased that the Monasterevin area is now included, as my mother still lives in St Evin’s Park where I grew up, and I have many strong personal connections with the locality where I went to school. This area has been strongly represented by Labour and Jack Wall over the years and I hope to be able to continue that level of commitment to a community that I know so well,” he said.
He said Monasterevin was a natural hinterland for the new Laois constituency with close links to Portlaoise and Portarlington. “I am confident there are many positive things we can achieve by working together and let the next general election take its own course.
The two big parties with solid bases will be confident of holding on to their two seats.
Fine Gael TD Charlie Flangan said he had “mixed feelings” about the change, but also expects a challenge.
“The transfer of part of Kildare South presents a new challenge for myself and my party in the newly formed constituency in Laois. It is also very much my intention to redouble my efforts in Laois and focus on the many issues that are outstanding and relevant in the county,” he said.
Deputy Sean Fleming said he was “looking forward” to representing this new constituency.
The population of Laois at 80,559 plus the 7,186 from Kildare gives a total population of 87,775 for the new constituency.
Apart from Monasterevin, Kildangan, Kilberry, Harristown, Churchtown, Ballybracken, and Castlemitchell are likely to be included in the constituency.