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Galway’s first Black Councillor – as Independent Ireland arrive as new force

The election of Galway’s first ever Black local representative and the emergence of a new force in local politics were among the standout stories to emerge this week after last Friday’s Local Election.

Independent Ireland, one of the country’s newest political parties, secured six seats on Galway County Council – topping the poll in one area – while Helen Ogbu’s election made history as Galway’s first ever Black elected representative.

While there was elation for the 16 new candidates elected, there was bitter disappointment for eight councillors who lost their seats in the county and city.

The Green Party suffered wipeout on both local authorities, while the long-anticipated surge in support for Sinn Féin did not materialise – although the party doubled its County Council and secured a single seat in the city.

Fine Gael has taken over as the largest party in the County Council with 13 councillors, up two, with Fianna Fáil down to eleven representatives from 15.

Six Independents were elected, five fewer than in 2019 as Michael Fitzmaurice’s fledgling party, Independent Ireland, made big gains on its first electoral outing.

Former Fianna Fáil councillor, Noel Thomas, who joined Independent Ireland after a row with the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ leadership, topped the poll in Conamara South where the party won two seats, the second going to Michael Leainde.

Seamus Walsh, who followed the same path as Thomas, was second home in Conamara North while former Independent, Declan Geraghty, was second in Ballinasloe with over 2,200 first preferences.

Shaun Cunniffe made a return to the political stage in Tuam under the Independent Ireland banner, too, while co-opted councillor Declan Kelly had his first electoral success for the same stable in Loughrea LEA.

They could hold the balance of power in negotiations for the County Council’s budgetary pact, but it’s understood that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are already in discussions.

In the city, Independent Ireland took no seats and lost its only sitting candidate, Noel Larkin, in City East.

Caption: A clearly emotional Helen Ogba is congratulated by her Labour colleague, Cllr Niall McNelis, after her election on Saturday.

For the full story of how Galway voted in the local elections, there are 20 pages of coverage this week’s Connacht Tribune; it’s on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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