‘Fine Gael gain but the Collins’ dynasty survives’
More or less the old Limerick West, having gained some territory in the east from Limerick East and lost some in the west to Kerry North. It made the constituency representative of most of rural county Limerick, excluding the western parts.
Since its creation as a 3-seater in 1948, it had been one of the most stable constituencies in the country, returning 2 Fianna Fail TDs at every election bar 1997.
Fianna Fail’s decision to run just one candidate, following the last-minute retirement of John Cregan, therefore showed how much things had changed. However, some things remain the same: the Collins family has won a seat here at every election since grandfather James was first elected in 1948, and incumbent Niall maintained this family tradition. Moreover, he headed the poll, the only Fianna Fail candidate apart from party leader Micheál Martin to do this.
Fine Gael was assured of two seats. Incumbent Dan Neville was re-elected, and Fine Gael’s second seat was taken by the youthful Patrick O’Donovan, a former President of Young Fine Gael, from Newcastle West, who won more than twice as many votes as Bill O’Donnell, nephew of former minister Tom. O’Donnell and O’Donovan had publicly clashed with each other on Limerick County Council prior to the election over cuts to the minimum wage. O’Donnell had refused to back a motion calling for a reversal of the reduction to the pay rate saying the cut could save businesses and jobs.
Labour’s James Heffernan trebled the party’s vote share, but despite his impressive performance he was 700 votes behind Niall Collins on the last count. There were three other constituencies where the party won a seat with less than the 17.6 per cent that Heffernan garnered.
Former IFA president John Dillon polled respectably but was never in contention for a seat.