A city based candidate in next month’s general election has received a timely boost – as she has received a resounding endorsement from one of Fine Gael’s most influential figures.
Senator Hildegarde Naughton is one of three FG candidates standing in Galway West and this week her campaign has received the support of former councillor Jarlath McDonagh from Turloughmore.
This is Senator Naughton’s second general election campaign and she is hoping to benefit from the fact that her city colleague and former TD Brian Walsh has decided to quit politics on health grounds.
And her campaign has been boosted by the support of former long-serving councillor and member of Seanad Eireann, Jarlath McDonagh who is still a very influential member of the party.
McDonagh quit politics at the last local elections in 2014 after more than 30 years a member of Galway County Council. He topped the poll twice in the Oranmore and what was known as the Galway Rural Electoral Area.
He was succeeded on Galway County Council by Frank Kearney from Turloughmore who is backing former Galway football manager Deputy John O’Mahony’s campaign.
In fact, O’Mahony has opened a constituency office in Claregalway and there were some raised eyebrows within Fine Gael that McDonagh – who also has a strong GAA background – bypassed O’Mahony and has thrown his weight behind Hildegarde Naughton.
In the 2011 General Election, Senator Naughton received 3,600 first preferences but would need to up this significantly by at least 2,000 votes to be in with a realistic chance of taking a seat.
In recent weeks, she has been canvassing the rural areas and, indeed, was well received when she paid a visit to the Turloughmore area recently.
Of course, she has strong family connections in Oranmore where she hopes to capture some of the 5,000 votes that former FG candidate Senator Fidelma Healy Eames received on the last occasion.
Fine Gael in Galway West are running three candidates in the hope of retaining the two seats they won in the last occasion.
While the bookies are giving her a very outside chance of winning a seat, she will be heartened by the fact that her odds have shortened. Her running mate Sean Kyne is second favourite behind Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.
TALLIES: Half of boxes open in City West
With half of the boxes in Galway City West tallied, the state of play in the six-seater is:
Donal Lyons (Ind) 23%
Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) 14.75%
Niall McNelis (Lab) 11.89%
John Connolly (FF) 9.86%
Pearce Flannery (FG) 9.48%
Peter Keane (FF) 7.3%
John Crowley (Soc Dems) 6.3%
Clodagh Higgins (FG) 5.9%
Salthill and Taylor’s Hill boxes being tallied now
Left and right find middle ground
There is a tired old cliché about people singing from ‘the same hymn sheet’ – but despite their diverse political backgrounds, it could certainly be applied in the case of Galway city’s two new TDs.
Because Fine Gael’s Deputy Hildegarde Naughten and independent TD Catherine Connolly hold common ground when it comes to a lot of issues relating to Galway city.
For example, in the aftermath of the general election they both agreed that University Hospital Galway should be moved to a greenfield site at Merlin Park. They also articulated this view on the first day of the new Dail last week.
And, separately, they were both in favour of the provision of dedicated bus lanes throughout Galway city with the acceptance that there will be no outer bypass for at least another decade. Deputy Connolly believes that the current proposal is simply “a cul-de-sac” and should never have been progressed.
Left-leaning Independent TD Catherine Connolly and right-leaning Fine Gael TD, Hildegarde Naughton, both believe UHG is at saturation point and are committed to the development of a new public hospital at the larger, more accessible site east of the city.
This, along with the promotion of public transport initiatives to help end traffic chaos in the city, is one of the common policy objectives the two new women TDs share.
They are only the second and third women TDs ever in Galway West, following in the footsteps of former Fianna Fáil minister, Máire Geoghegan Quinn.
Fianna Fail attempts to woo Grealish again
Pressure is mounting on Galway West TD Noel Grealish to join Fianna Fail as the party attempts to be part of the next government.
The Fianna Fail organisation in the constituency are now convinced that Grealish may provide the party with the answer to winning a second seat in Galway West. And the organisation are disappointed that veteran TD Eamon O Cuiv has not delivered a second seat in the last two general elections. If Fianna Fail assume power, it is very unlikely that the Cornamona man will have a place at the front bench.
The party organisation in Galway West are now anxious that Grealish becomes part of their fabric and particularly as he is a proven vote-winner.
Grealish is part of an unofficial grouping in the Dail who are currently engaged with the two major parties with a view to forming a minority government.
The fact that the Carnmore man has been a TD since 2002, it is likely that he could be part of the front bench in the next government if he agrees to become part of the support that Fianna Fail require.
It was revealed last week that he had been approached by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to join up but he was not to be drawn on the issue.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.