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Anticipated changes will have massive fall-out for Fianna Fáil in Galway

There will be “an absolute bloodbath” among Fianna Fáil candidates in the Athenry/Oranmore local electoral area in County Galway if anticipated boundary changes come to pass.

A number of party sources have told the Connacht Tribune that members are bracing themselves for significant changes across the county – but none more so than the sitting councillors in the Athenry area.

Despite being over a year out from the next local elections, panic is setting in about the Electoral Commission’s redrawing of boundaries which is understood to be going before Cabinet in the coming days.

When the boundaries were last redrawn in 2018, Clarinbridge and a slice of Oranmore, taking in Renville, were moved into the Gort/Kinvara electoral area.

However, suspicion is rife that those areas will be returned to Oranmore as the commission seeks to rebalance Municipal Districts based on population.

“We’re fully expecting and preparing for Clarinbridge to go back into Athenry/Oranmore, and that presents its own problems,” said a senior Fianna Fáil source.

Those problems start and end with an oversupply of candidates, they said, as sitting councillors in the Athenry area – Cllr Albert Dolan and Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn – will be joined by Cllr Martina Kinane.

Cllr Kinane has proven a vote-winner in both areas, securing election in Athenry/Oranmore in 2014 and again in Gort Kinvara in 2019.

There was concern before the last local elections that she would struggle to hold her seat, having lost Oranmore Village where she is active in a number of community initiatives – and a return to that electoral area will suit her heading into the next election.

“It would suit Martina, no doubt about it, but that would mean we have Martina, Shelly and Albert all on the one ticket – and we may need another,” said the source.

Fianna Fáil also has to consider Claregalway, where a growing electorate would likely be drawn to a local candidate ahead of Cllr Dolan in Monivea, Cllr Herterich Quinn in Athenry, or Cllr Kinane from Clarinbridge.

The party ran Michael Hannon from Claregalway in 2019 when he attracted over 750 first preference votes – outpolling Cllr Herterich Quinn on the first count but proving less transfer-friendly. However, those transfers provided a substantial boost to his party colleague in Athenry.

“We will have to run a candidate in Claregalway. It would be criminal not to, given the size of the area and how well the fella who ran last time did. But the dynamics are changing with Clarinbridge coming back in – it will be a bloodbath with four of them fighting it out.

“That would have to be managed very carefully, because do it wrong and we may not be able to hold what we have,” said another Fianna Fáil source.

“With Sinn Féin on the rise, and the usual hammering the Government parties get at the locals, we’ll be up against it.”

Concerns will be bubbling on high too as the party needs women to run in the general election, and with the gender quota rising to 40%, the senior party source said they would struggle to get there.

“Depending on how Galway East and Galway West shape up after the boundary review, we would be looking at running Shelly Herterich Quinn in Galway East to bolster Anne Rabbitte’s chances, and possibly Martina Kinane could be added in Galway West. We suspect Galway West could run down as far as Kinvara after the review, with Headford and the surrounding areas potentially going into Mayo” they said.

Cllr Albert Dolan may well have his eyes set on a Dáil run, “but we don’t need another man on the ticket”.

All of this is with an eye on Sinn Féin’s Louis O’Hara who is expected to take a seat in Galway East next time out, having nearly taken Deputy Anne Rabbitte out at the 2020 General Election.

“It’s looking very likely that Galway East will go from three seats to four, so we’re less concerned than we were, but it will take serious vote management to make sure Anne Rabbitte in Portumna gets the transfers she needs from areas like Gort, Tuam, and possibly even Ballinasloe which could end up in Galway East after the boundary commission’s done.

(Photo: Councillor Shelly Herterich Quinn)

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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