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Incumbents look to have breathing space

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From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Incumbents look to have breathing space Incumbents look to have breathing space

With five sitting councillors in the running – and four of them former mayors – newcomers will have an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent councillors in City East.

The 15 candidates not already sitting on the Council have a clear run at one seat as Social Democrats Councillor Alan Curran is running in City West, having been co-opted into City East following the resignation of Owen Hanley in January 2023.

Sinn Féin suffered electoral wipeout at the last Local Election, with then councillor and now TD, Máiréad Farrell, losing her Council seat in City East. But even with a recent dip in national polls, the party’s candidate, Ballybane-based disability centre manager Aisling Burke, is going to be a contender.

Fine Gael suffered a similar fate in City East in 2019 when John Walsh lost the party’s only seat in the area, but they’re running two candidates this time around.

It will be a good day at the polls for them if either Mervue-native Shane Forde or Doughiska-based Aisling Keogh take one seat, but both are vying for a win.

Both have strong sporting backgrounds, an attribute that never hurts at the ballot box, with Keogh heavily involved in Hockey Ireland and Forde a well-known face among the St James’ faithful.

Left-of-centre candidates will surely be eyeing up the Soc Dem voters from 2019, and while their own candidate, Lower Salthill-based Justine Delaney Heaslip, will be hoping they remain loyal, she faces stiff competition – in particular from Labour.

The party had a poor result last time, coming 14th in a field of 16, but they are hopeful their candidate, community worker Helen Ogbu, is in contention this time around.

Known for her involvement in the ARD Family Resource Centre, Ogbu will be seeking to draw a strong vote from Doughiska and Roscam – and to reignite an old Labour base in City East that returned two candidates in 2009.

Another candidate targeting those votes is Joyce Mathias of the Green Party who will be hoping to build on the 5% of first preferences secured by her predecessor, Claire Hillery, at the last election.

Both Ogbu and Mathias are aiming to be the first person of colour elected to City Hall and have sought to increase electoral participation in the diverse community in Doughiska.

People Before Profit – Solidarity is running two candidates in the ward, with Mervue artist, Denman Rooke, joining former candidate Conor Burke on the ticket.

They have a road to travel, though, as Burke polled just 2.5% of first preferences in 2019.

Stalwart Independents and former Progressive Democrats, Cllrs Terry O’Flaherty and Declan McDonnell have put rumours of retirement to bed and it would take a mini-political earthquake for either of them to lose their seats.

Cllr McDonnell, who has been on the Council since 1991, topped the poll in 2019, while Cllr O’Flaherty, seeking her sixth term, was first past the post in 2014.

Nipping at their heels for poll-topper status is sitting Fianna Fáil Councillor Alan Cheevers, who came second on first preferences in 2019.

There are a few challengers to his dominance in Doughiska but he has developed a broad appeal among floating voters.

His party colleague, sitting Councillor Michael Crowe, is in the eyeline of non-party and Fine Gael candidates, targeting the former mayor’s seat in the hope poor opinion poll ratings will translate into a loss of one of Fianna Fáil’s two seats.

The last of the sitting councillors seeking re-election is Noel Larkin who recently shed his Independent status to join the fledgling Independent Ireland party.

The businessman has kept an extremely low profile in recent years, having missed out on a second ‘go’ with the mayoral chains following a petition and campaign against his nomination in 2020, leading to widespread speculation he would not run again.

One candidate who will be hoping those Independent votes don’t transfer to a party candidate is Ballybane’s Michael Tully, who despite a poor showing in 2019, has been laying the groundwork for another bite at the apple ever since.

Independent candidate Conor Dowd is a former member of An Rabharta Glas-Green Left who has been building a profile in recent years, gaining most prominence as a vocal critic of the €56 million relocation of City Hall to Crown Square.

Aontú candidate Cormac Ó Corcoráin is no stranger to the electoral process, having run unsuccessfully in the General Election in 2020, and in the Locals in 2019 in City Central.

Other candidates include Oranmore-based Jacinta Gibbons (The Irish People); Doughiska Men’s Shed Chairperson, David Lynch (Independent); Athenry-based Susan Feeney (Irish Freedom Party); and Ballybane-based Arkadiusz Wozniak (Independent).

Pictured: City East

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