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New entrant spooks field in the Group of Death


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

New entrant spooks field in the Group of Death New entrant spooks field in the Group of Death

Kenny Deery’s surprise entry into the race for a Galway City Council seat has spooked rivals in City West, the most competitive of the three Local Electoral Areas.

Dubbed the ‘group of death’, there are seven sitting councillors vying for six seats in the LEA encompassing Salthill, Knocknacarra, Taylors Hill and Rahoon – and he joins a list of other credible candidates capable of making a big impact.

Mayo native Deery, outgoing head of Galway Chamber of Commerce, is mounting a slick campaign to dislodge one of the incumbents with a pledge for ‘honesty’ and to ‘change the system’.

Jarlath Feeney – an ex-Chamber CEO and former director of now defunct freesheet Galway Independent – was another non-party first-time candidate with a pro-business agenda promising to be the ‘voice of change’.

Neither Feeney nor Deery have been tested electorally and it’s difficult to gauge if their message will resonate with voters.

Pledging change, too, by going back to the future, is Sinn Féin’s Cathal Ó Conchúir. The retired Coláiste Iognáid teacher is seeking to regain the seat he lost in 2019, during an electoral wipeout for the Republican party.

Though its popularity has dipped, and leadership has flip-flopped on policy issues including immigration, Sinn Féin remains in contention to regain a seat here, even allowing for recent slippage in polls.

Fianna Fáil is in danger of losing one of its two seats in City West if recent opinion polls materialise on June 7.

Its two sitting councillors – John Connolly and Peter Keane – cannot both survive on 14% support, which is what one of the more pessimistic polls showed recently.

But Fianna Fáil tend to do better in elections than polling data suggests, and both will be relying on personal support as they fight for their political lives.

Fine Gael almost took two seats here in 2019, but it was Councillor Clodagh Higgins who emerged on top, unseating the incumbent, party colleague Pearce Flannery. She has consolidated her support base over the past five years, which included a stint as Mayor.

Asraf Chowdhury, her running mate, is an Irish citizen originally from Bangladesh living in Knocknacarra, who hopes to be the first Muslim and first person of colour elected to City Hall.

Another ‘new Irish’ candidate is Esther Osayimwen, a naturalised Irish citizen from Nigeria, who has lived in Knocknacarra for 22 years and worked in community development and supporting migrants.

She’s targeting the left-of-centre support base of Councillors Níall McNelis (Labour), Alan Curran (Social Democrats) and Niall Murphy (Greens).

Cllr McNelis is the only one of those three who contested and won a seat in 2019 – the other two were co-opted – and the businessman and former mayor is eyeing a fourth successive term.

Labour is languishing in polls, but Cllr McNelis is high profile in local media, with broad appeal outside of his party.

Cllr Curran was co-opted into the Soc Dem’s seat in City East when Owen Hanley resigned as a councillor last year. But the Coláiste Éinde teacher has opted to run where he lives in Knocknacarra.

A founder of Galway Cycle Bus and member of Galway Cycling Campaign, Cllr Curran can build on the 6% first preferences achieved by Soc Dem John Crowley in 2019 when he finished eighth in the race for six seats.

Most under pressure from the ‘Purple Party’, is Green councillor Murphy, who was co-opted into the seat won by Pauline O’Reilly after she was elected to Seanad Éireann in 2020, and is now seeking election to the European Parliament. Can he hold enough of the whopping 1,300 number ones she took five years ago?

The big behemoth is Councillor Donal Lyons, dubbed ‘King of Knocknacarra’, who is once again in a strong position to top the poll, despite competition nibbling at his support base from all sides.

The Independent former Progressive Democrat Councillor has consistently been the most popular politician in this LEA – he was elected on the first count in 2019 with 281 first preferences votes to spare over the quota.

Holding the line on his opposition to plans for a Salthill cycleway – while rival Councillors supported it, then flip-flopped and eventually torpedoed it – will have done Cllr Lyons no harm in estates where residents strongly resisted the change.

People Before Profit is running a candidate here for the first time; Maisie McMaster, aged 20, is the youngest candidate but the Mayo barista will need to brew up a big storm if she’s to take out one of the heavyweights.

Other candidates include animal rights activist Denis Nealis who aligns with Sentient Rights Ireland; Oranmore-based Rory Ó Beirn (Irish Freedom Party); and tech entrepreneur AJ Cahill, who took 488 first preferences here in 2009, and founded the Irish People Party last year.

Pictured: City West


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