Getting elected to Galway City Council is not ‘easy’


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Getting elected to Galway City Council is not ‘easy’ Getting elected to Galway City Council is not ‘easy’

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

First-time local election candidates often underestimate the task ahead of them.

Maybe it’s the euphoria of being selected to represent the party; the initial welcoming acceptance from the party faithful clouds their judgment.

Or maybe they believe what their non-political friends tell them – that they will be elected handy enough.

They see some people who are already on Galway City or County Councils and think they could do a far better job as a councillor than them. And then they jump to conclusions – ‘if I’d be a better councillor than person X who was elected, then there is no reason why I can’t get elected’.

Their mates and family reinforce this narrative. So, they are surrounded by people who are telling them they would make great councillors, that they are good enough to win a seat, and that they are going to win a seat.

The problem is that most of the time, these cheerleaders – who are only trying to be positive, supportive and encouraging – know nothing about getting elected.

And those people who do know what it takes – those who have contested elections, or the party foot soldiers who knock on doors, regardless of the identity of the candidate – don’t want to scare off shiny new candidates.

That’s because political parties need new blood. And if they were honest and told the newbies how difficult it was to get elected and how much money they may have to spend in the process, then the political parties wouldn’t have any new candidates.

But newbies need a reality check. And here it is.

To get elected, new candidates must unseat sitting councillors, which is not as easy as it sounds. The odds are stacked in favour of sitting elected reps, particularly in local elections where they have Notice of Motion money to spend annually on small jobs that curry favour with the electorate. And the national mood is less important in local elections, although voters have used Council elections to give the government parties of the day a good kicking.

Some councillors have been nurturing their voter support base for 20-plus years. In other cases, there’s been a family dynasty who laid the groundwork for them. Voters say they want change, but experience tells us they vote for continuity and reward loyalty.

Take City Central, for example, with two new women candidates, Josie Forde for Fianna Fáil, and Eibhlín Seoighthe for the Social Democrats.

The last election tells us they ‘only’ need about 500 first preference votes, plus 450 transfers, to take the final seat.

But who are they taking them off and who are they going to unseat?

Forde’s task in theory is slightly less challenging – hold the core FF vote and add a personal one.

Easier said than done with a resurgent Sinn Féin. And remember Fianna Fáil hasn’t had a woman elected to City Hall since Margaret Cox – in 1999! (Former councillor Mary Leahy and sitting councillor Imelda Byrne were both co-opted).

Seoighthe’s task appears harder. Yes, she’s more embedded in the community than Sharon Nolan, the purple party’s candidate here in 2019, but the Soc Dems have only ever elected one person in Galway.

It’s doable, but new candidates should remember they are not the shoo-in their supporters think they are!
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the February 9 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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