Battle To Be A TD – Campaign At Endgame

Athlone Candidates talks to

The bookies and polling companies naturally are unable to definitively call the election for Athlone, Co. Westmeath. As said in the previous article, the town will get one of the four Longford/Westmeath seats. On a great day, ‘the town’ could achieve more than one, but it won’t be less than one.

The three favourites of the pollsters for the South Westmeath are Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan, Fine Gael Deputy Gabrielle McFadden and Independent Alliance member Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. Each are natives of Athlone, and have a combination of 36 years of experience representing the town at a political level. The trio exclusively talk to irishsmokefill about their experiences of the campaign trail, as they reach the last lap of the journey.   The candidates own direct quotes to David Flynn are used in the blog post.

The other Athlone candidates are: Stephanie Healy (DDI), Donal Jackson (Ind), Noel McKervey Catholic Democrats (National Party) and Dom Parker (AAA-PBP).

Cllr. Paul Hogan

“I’ve spent a huge amount of hours at this stage, and have knocked on 20,000 doors, in Longford and Westmeath, and got a massive response,

“The first week was not good weather-wise, and we were canvassing in snow and hail, but last week was nice, and we have only a handful of canvass cards left,

“It was a huge campaign, and we were probably the only party talking with people, and not just knocking on doors and just putting in leaflets,

“I hope it’ll come to NO. 1 votes, and I was brought in for tea, for chats, and got a good response on doors, and it was a short campaign mainly concentrating on towns and villages,

“I am very lucky with the team I have, who are more or less the same team with me for last 12 years, and they are hugely committed people, who don’t leave a stone unturned. They were people who were tired, but made sure every door was knocked. I’m very lucky,

“My family have been superb from Day 1, particularly my mother and father who are out there on every campaign knocking on every door,

“There was one funny moment where we got locked into a house, whereas you’d hear of some people getting locked out……

“I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead, and have risen to all challenges put to me,

“At the back of it all, I’m a humble hard working politician,

“There are huge issues out there, and I believe I have the skills to write legislation,

“I want to have strong constituency services and see that people are adequately represented and that we get our fair share in Longford/Westmeath,

“I think it will be very tight, a long count, and I know the co-ordination of tallymen is under way, and we are preparing ourselves for a possible recount because it will be very tight on the day,

“I’ll be delighted with any seat,

“Like a football match, you can have all the training you like, but you need a bounce of luck, so I hope I have that,

“I got a few messages that said that I have got a few postal votes, No. 1.”

Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran

“It has been tough, and I was late starter compared to anyone else, and there was a lot of pressure on myself and my team, but I’ve said to everyone, that if they are not tired come Friday, we have not done enough,

“I have over 100 of a team working for me, and we are in a race against time, and it’s all about getting the name of the Alliance out there, and working together as a partnership with Brian Fagan and James Morgan, and working to get one of us elected. It’s hard going, and it’s tough going, and weather has been very poor to us. I’m used to the rain though and have worked in the rain, so I know what it’s like.

“I’m long enough and bold enough to know; it’s about getting new faces, and having a new voice and a new face in the Dail,

“There are some people who only go to funerals, and don’t make contributions to Dail debates, which is something I want to change, and so does the Alliance,

“I’m a different breed of a politician, I’m streetwise, but some dirt is after being thrown at me as regards my education, but I’m a businessman and I’ve interacted with CEOs of companies and I’m 17 years in politics and have been influential, and have a work-rate, and I’m not saying that because of the floods, because long before the floods I was delivering on the doorsteps,

“Believe me in the Dail, I will make a huge difference to the people of Longford/Westmeath. If you come down the motorway, you pass Kinnegad, and come to Moate, and you see all the small towns that were neglected by the government. There has been no investment, no money and not enough infrastructure,

“We have a constituency divide and we are doing something no political party has done, and we selling the brand of the alliance, because the people of Mullingar and Longford has to know Boxer Moran,

“I won’t count my chickens but if I get elected, I want to do what the people want, and I want to make a difference.”

Deputy Gabrielle McFadden

“Things are good, and everybody’s lovely, and I’ve been having a great time, and met a lot of people I haven’t met before,

“It’s still current for me, because I had the by-election 20 months ago, and I’m particularly enjoying the rural canvass. I love putting on the boots, and going up into farmyards, chatting with them all,

“I’m a complete and utter townie, and up to the by-election I preferred an urban canvass, but now I have totally enjoyed the rural,

“A lot of the time people mention Nicky, and many people say we are very different but we have a lot of similarities,

“The joke in the office is, someone will say you go with Gab and keep her moving, because I do talk too much to people, and some would say, she’s not as bad as Nicky, because Nicky would go in for tea as well,

“It was really cold and dry this week, but last week was quite miserable and wet,

“I don’t do kissing babies,

“I saw loads of dogs, and I love dogs and am very brave,

“I saw no giving out and no rudeness, and everyone is really lovely. I feel very close but I’m optimistic. I don’t think negative, and feel I am the best option.

“My wonderful husband and family, my aunt, and niece and nephew and my cousins from Coosan, were out canvassing with me. All my in-laws were down from Dublin, and we had a huge canvass, and some nights we had huge teams out, with lots of young people and some nights we had 12 or 14 teams out.

“Madeline Taylor Quinn was up here a couple of times, and a friend of mine Cllr. Laura McGonigle from Cork and Minister Charlie Flanagan was here, and I’m blessed with a wonderful team.

“I’m happy tired right now, and have worked really hard over the past two and half years, and I have put in a really good campaign. I haven’t done anything wrong, and what will be will be.”


Battle of Athlone Looms

The stage is set for the biggest battle of Athlone since Sgt. Custume defended the bridge in 1691. Three local people will be fighting to be the TD for the town after the General Election, which is on February 26th.

Deputy Gabrielle McFadden, Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Cllr. Paul Hogan will be vying for the last seat in the Longford/Westmeath constituency, according to many political commentators including irishsmokefill, writes David Flynn.

It is considered that the three sitting deputies, Robert Troy, James Bannon and Willie Penrose will be returned, although it is the opinion of irishsmokefill that Penrose won’t have an easy re-entry to the Dail. The Labour TD was a poll-topper in 2011, with 11,406 votes but when the Longford/Westmeath by-election came in 2014, his Labour counterpart; Denis Leonard only achieved 3,290 votes.

However irishsmokefill believes Deputy Willie Penrose will buck the Labour nationwide trend and be elected, but obviously his vote will drop by more than a couple of thousand. The Penrose success or loss will be a barometer for the Labour vote nationwide. Basically if he loses, they are all gone!! And that’s not going to happen.

McFadden, Moran and Hogan are all natives of Athlone, and they need to have strong base votes, before they achieve the prize of returning as Dail Deputies.

Moran (Boxer) was elected as a Fianna Fail councillor in 1999, in fact to both Westmeath and Athlone councils on his first outing. His vote was small at the time, but it grew, to him coming only second to the popular Fine Gael politician Nicky McFadden at the two council elections of 2004. By the time of the 2009 elections, Nicky had become a member of Seanad Eireann, and Boxer was the poll-topper. Along the way, in 2006, he challenged the formidable Mary O’Rourke for the nomination for Election 07, and was beaten by a mere 10 votes.

When the Fianna Fail disaster election of 2011 came along, O’Rourke went forward again, and Boxer left the party to go as an Independent, gaining a credible 3,707 first preferences.  He remained Independent and when the councils changed in 2014, Boxer gained a massive 2,897 votes in the Athlone Municpal district election, almost doubling the vote of the second councillor elected.

Also in the meantime, Nicky McFadden suffered a terrible illness and sadly died in March 2014, and a by-election was held on May 23rd.

Her sister Gabrielle McFadden, who had been an Athlone town and Westmeath county councillor since 2009, was elected to the Dail. Gabrielle had got 12,365 first preferences, and won the contest easily. However a credible performance was achieved by Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan with 7,548 votes, which was a third of the by-election quota.

Hogan was first elected to Athlone town council in June 2004, and was re-elected in 2009. He represented Sinn Fein in the 2007 election. He was unsuccessful then and in the 2011 General Election but because his vote has almost doubled on each occasion, he can’t be ignored. has been consistently putting McFadden in the lead, and Boxer second and Hogan third – all for the last seat. But that is too simplistic.

McFadden will have to suffer due to the continuous dropping of Fine Gael percentage, and the same with Hogan. However she has the history of her family vote – her sister Nicky was the highest vote catcher in the history of Athlone Town Council/UDC.   Hogan’s vote has always been more Independent of Sinn Fein in his own native town, which any candidate would like to their name.

The Independent percentage is increasing – but will that elect Boxer?   Boxer’s local vote is immense, but can it continue once the votes outside of South Westmeath are counted? Being part of the Shane Ross/Michael Fitzmaurice Independent Alliance won’t hurt his vote. He has popularity, and if popularity transfers (pardon the pun) into votes, he will take the seat.

Lots of questions, the one guaranteed answer is………Athlone will have a TD come February 26th/27th…….not every town among the forty constituencies can boast such certainty.

And They’re Off

It’s a cold night for putting up posters, but that is what the party’s faithful have to do to get their candidate over the line. I doubt a General Election candidate will be elected unless their face is on a poster, although numerous local election candidates manage to do so.

As I write, and as you read this, posters are being put up on poles and walls throughout the land. They look spick and span now, but a couple of weeks of February weather should take its toll.

We have 23 days to go before the polls open – Friday, February 26 writes David Flynn. The choice as appears could be a Fine Gael led government or one led by Sinn Fein. Although it is unlikely that SF will lead a government at the moment, they are still in strong contention to become the second largest party.

Fianna Fail are languishing at 17% in the most recent RED C poll – exactly the percentage they got five years ago in the last General Election, so they need a lot of luck.

Doors will be knocked daily and nightly and leaflets will fill letterboxes.   It’s an exciting time for anyone interested in viewing it all, but for the candidates, its nerve wracking. So spare a thought for those candidates, because few enjoy the experience, particularly as it gets near the end. It’s exciting for us, but not for them.