Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called a general election for Saturday February 8 – triggering a intriguing campaign in Louth with 10 candidates set to battle in out in the five seat constituency.
The Taoiseach announced the date for the election – it had been expected the date would be Friday February 7 or a week later on February 14 – shortly before travelling to Phoenix Park to ask President Michael D Higgins to dissolve the 32nd Dáil.
This election will be the first time since 1918 that a general election in Ireland will take place on a Saturday. The Taoiseach said the decision was taken to avoid closing schools used as polling stations.
In Louth, incumbent TDs Fergus O’Dowd (Fine Gael), Imelda Munster (Sinn Fein), Declan Breathnach (Fianna Fail) and Peter Fitzpatrick (Independent) are all seeking re-election, with Gerry Adams stepping down. His place on the Sinn Fein ticket has been taken by Dundalk-based Councillor Ruairi O Murchu, who was co-opted onto Louth County Council in 2017.
His council counterpart and current cathaoirleach of Dundalk Municipal District John McGahon joins O’Dowd in an attempt to win back a second Fine Gael seat. Peter Fitzpatrick had won re-election as a candidate for the party in 2016 but subsequently resigned from the party in October 2018. He is running again as an Independent candidate. Fitzpatrick, a former Louth senior football team manager, was recently elected new chairman of the Louth GAA County Board.
Breathnach is joined on the Fianna Fail election trail by Councillor James Byrne from Drogheda Borough Council. He was first elected to the council in last year’s local elections, replacing his father Tommy on his retirement. He was added to the party’s general election ticket soon after.
Mark Dearey confirmed this week that he will contest the General Election for the Green Party. Dearey did not contest the local elections in 2019 but is returning to politics with a run for a seat in the Dáil. Senator Ged Nash is Labour’s candidate in Louth and East Meath. Nash lost his seat in 2016 and has been in the Seanad ever since. He was selected to run in an uncontested convention almost three years ago.
Eamon Sweeney, the former LMFM Radio presented, will contest the election for Renua Ireland. He contested the local elections last year, failing to secure a seat on Drogheda Borough Council. Dundalk woman Topanga Bird has announced she is to stand as an Independent candidate.
Only 11 candidates run this time around, compared to 2016 when 16 ran. That included four women – Emma Coffey (Fianna Fail), Mary Moran (Labour), Maeve Yore (Independent Alliance) and Imelda Munster (Sinn Fein). In 2020, Munster is joined by Bird, the only other female candidate running in Louth.