General Election 2020 in Laois-Offaly is a whole new ball game and like no general election ever held before in this constituency.
It is certainly an entirely different kettle of fish to Election 2016, when the election in Laois in particular was regarded as a foregone conclusion, the count in St Mary’s Hall was like watching paint dry.
Laois-Offaly which have been joined at the hip for all general elections since the birth of the nation in 1921, were separated for the first time ever in 2016.
The 5-seat marginal midland constituency was broken into two new 3-seaters of Laois and Offaly.
This yielded an additional Dáil seat for the two counties but it also entailed the transfer of about 3,000 voters out of Offaly into Tipperary and similarly the stripping out of Monasterevin-Kildangan voters out of Kildare South to vote in Laois.
A total of 15 candidates have put themselves forward to contest the five available seats.
Check them out below:
Corcoran-Kennedy, Marcella (Fine Gael) – First elected to the Dail in 2011, this will be the third General Election that the Birr native will contest.
She served as a Offaly County Councillor from 1999 to 2009, for the Ferbane electoral area and was also the first ever Fine Gael Minister from Offaly when served as Minister of State for Health Promotion from 2016 to 2017.
Cowen, Barry (Fianna Fail) – Like Corcoran-Kennedy above, Cowen is also hoping to retain the seat that he has held since 2011.
The Clara native, who was a member of Offaly County Council for the Tullamore electoral area since 1991 until his election to the Dail, succeeded his brother Brian.
Daly, John (The National Party) – John Daly is a truck driver from Ballyfin. He is a first-time Dáil candidate for the National Party.
John has experience in pro-life campaigning. According to his website, John is committed to a strong law and order policy which protects rural Ireland.
Flanagan, Charlie (Fine Gael) – Charlie Flanagan is Laois’s longest serving politician. The Mountmellick native was first elected to the Dail in 1987 and held that seat until 2002 where he lost it before retaining it again in 2007.
He has held three ministries – Justice, Foreign Affairs and Children – and will be hoping to win a fifth election.
Flanagan, Pauline (Fianna Fáil) – She was a Councillor with Laois County Council from June 2018, after being co-opted onto the seat following the sad passing of Councillor Jerry Lodge.
The seat was lost following the local elections in May of last year but Flanagan is adamant that she has learnt a lot from losing and she is confident of winning an extra Fianna Fáil seat with Sean Fleming in the next general election.
Fleming, Sean (Fianna Fáil) – Deputy Fleming is an accountant from The Swan. Fleming was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1997 general election and retained his seat at the 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2016 general elections. He was formerly Financial Director of Fianna Fáil at national level.
He served as Opposition Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform from 2011 to 2016. He is currently the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Hackett, Pippa (Green Party) – In May 2019, Pippa Hackett was elected as county councillor in Offaly for the Edenderry Municipal District for the Green Party.
She was elected unopposed to the Agricultural Panel of Seanad Éireann in a by-election on 1 November 2019.
Leahy, John (Independent) – Former Renua Party leader Cllr Leahy from Birr polled exceptionally well in the local elections with over 2,000 votes.
Leahy worked as a GAA Coaching and Games Promotion Officer, he has also contributed as a hurling analyst on Midlands 103.
Nolan, Carol (Independent) – Nolan is from Cadamstown Co. Offaly, she was formerly a primary school teacher for 12 years and principal of a gaelscoil.
Carol Nolan TD took the third seat in Offaly in 2016. She since left the party over the pro-life issue and the Sinn Féin support for Repealing the 8th Amendment.
O’Rourke, Noel (Renua) – Kilminchy native Noel is a community person who was a leading No campaigner in Laois in the recent Abortion Referendum.
He has also been heavily involved in the campaign to Save Portlaoise Hospital. He was among a number of candidates who sought to be co-opted by Fianna Fáil to the Laois County Council seat left vacant following the death of Jerry Lodge – but that was filled by Pauline Madigan. He then chose to run for Renua.
Ormond, Peter (Fianna Fáil) – Cllr Ormond is from Shinrone in Offaly.
He was elected on the First Count in the Local Elections in the Birr area in 2019 – just behind Independent John Leahy – who he will be up against here again. He was first elected as a Councillor in 1999 and has held that seat ever since.
Smollen, Ken (Irish Democratic Party) – Cllr Smollen is from Tullamore, he is a retired member of An Garda Síochana having served in Tallaght, Edenderry and Portlaoise.
Ken is one of the founding members of the Irish Democratic Party back in October 2013.
Stanley, Brian (Sinn Féin) – As a Councillor Brian has served as Vice Chairperson of the County Council and for five years was chairperson of the councils Strategic Policy Committee for housing, social and cultural affairs.
As a public representative his is active on many issues including; job creation, planning, roads & infrastructure, housing, education, sport and recreational facilities and the environment.
Tynan, Stephen (People Before Profit) – Stephen Tynan is originally from Main Street in the Town and now lives in the Heath. His family ran a well-known café in the town centre for many years and more recently it was the base for their taxi business. He also ran a computer business there.
Stephen Tynan is a longstanding activist who has campaigned for housing rights, against water charges and the privatisation of the refuse service. He would have previously been aligned to the Sinn Féin party. He also campaigned on behalf of the National Association of Tenants Organisation, NATO.
Tuohy, Noel (Labour) – Cllr Tuohy is a member of the board of Portlaoise Leisure Centre and St Francis School in the town. He is a retired prison officer and a former POA trade union official. He is also closely associated with and a staunch supporter of Portlaoise GAA. He has been an active member of the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee since its formation in 1998.
Cllr Tuohy has successfully contested two local elections. He was first elected to Laois County Council in 2014 and re-elected to his seat in the Portlaoise Electoral Area with an increased first preference vote of 1,041, about 10% of the vote in May 2019.