#GE16: The Duel of Dun Laoghaire

Richard Chambers takes a look at one of the most intriguing contests between Fianna Fail candidates

With the General Election just weeks away, one of the most intriguing contests will be between Fianna Fáil candidates battling for a seat in Dun Laoghaire in South Dublin.

Former Minister Mary Hanafin will fight for the seat she lost in 2011 after being added to the ticket alongside Councillor Cormac Devlin, who won the party's controversial selection convention last September.

Now some of Fianna Fáil's biggest names have rallied behind the young Councillor at the expense of the former Minister.

Reporter Richard Chambers has spent time with both of the candidates.

What's the background?

There is optimism within the party that there is a seat available to them.

Dun Laoghaire is a four-seat constituency - but with the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett automatically returned to the Dáil, it is effectively a three-seater this time around.

Fine Gael are very confident of securing the re-election of Mary Mitchell O’Connor, while Richard Boyd Barrett is another very popular TD so would have to be considered a strong favourite for a seat.

So what’s left for Fianna Fáil? 

You may remember the "Battle of Blackrock"; the bitter battle between Mary Hanafin and Kate Feeney at the last local elections. Both, eventually, ended up on the ticket, and were both elected.

This issue returned to the headlines at the selection convention for the General Election when both Cllrs Feeney and Hanafin were joined by Cllr Cormac Devlin who prevailed on the night, thanks in part to the transfers from Feeney, who overwhelmingly opted for him.

Hanafin was later added to the ticket in Dun Laoghaire - giving Fianna Fail two candidates on the ticket.

Last Saturday the 23rd of January, Fianna Fáil heavyweights and former Ministers Mary O’Rourke and David Andrews, the former Foreign Affairs Minister whose surname has appeared on ballot papers in the constituency for 51 years, have rallied around Councillor Cormac Devlin.

Interestingly, neither of them mentioned Mary Hanafin by name in their speeches, both doing so afterwards when I was speaking to them. One reference was made to the second candidate.

I spoke to Mary O’Rourke after her speech and she explained why she’s opted for Cllr Devlin instead of her fellow former Minister.

How does Councillor Devlin feel about the cards he's been dealt? 

The Devlin camp is optimistic. They’re energised and have been out canvassing for quite some time now, trying to get Cllr Devlin’s face out there as much as possible. He has been a Councillor in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown for almost 12 years now, so he does have a local track record and he’ll need to call upon that as much as possible over the coming weeks.

Joining him on a canvass in Dun Laoghaire after his launch, he told me he still feels he should have been the sole Fianna Fáil candidate on the ticket.

How is Mary Hanafin's campaign shaping up?

Her camp is confident. Speaking to people within her team, they have a feeling that people in the constituency vote for Ministers. They’ll vote for a name and a face they can trust.

I met her on Saturday evening and asked her what she thinks about the party’s chances in Dun Laoghaire - and what she makes of the big hitters rolling in behind her running mate Cormac Devlin.

Mary Hanafin has been the subject of a lot of colun inches recently. Mary Cowen criticised her loyalty to Micheal Martin and her own remarks at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis say she's been asked by supporters to return to the front bench.

Will those comments help or harm her chances?

It’s the question again about whether or not all publicity is in fact good publicity.

Those comments on a private Facebook page, made by Mary Cowen, obviously sparked a huge deal of interest. They stated that leader Micheal Martin should ‘watch his back’ because ‘there wouldn’t be too much loyalty there’.

Now Mary Hanafin has battled back - she says her loyalty is to the party and she is behind Micheal Martin’s tenure.

What are the two candidates' chances?

It's a difficult battle. Fine Gael are really pushing hard behind Cllr Maria Bailey now. They believe they can pick up what would effectively be a third seat in the constituency. That would be a remarkable result.

For Fianna Fáil, the situation and how it’s developed over the months perhaps hasn’t been ideal but maybe the hullabaloo over the Battle of Blackrock and its sequel might be enough to galvanise the core vote. This might result in a few disenfranchised Fine Gaelers or Labour people who might not opt for the party’s own candidate Cllr Carrie Smith or be tempted by Sinn Féin’s Cllr Shane O’Brien.

There are many battlegrounds across Dublin this time around - this one is better value to watch than most come the day of the count.

Live from @ElectionNT