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Election 2020

Old foes see Galway West as critical to power hopes

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With the election date now officially confirmed, we complete our previews of the three Galway constituencies – and this week DARA BRADLEY looks at Galway West were the two big guns, looking to come up with the numbers to lead the next Government, will be banking on taking second seats.

Will we get a green wave or a purple revolution? Will Fine Gael hold two seats, or will Fianna Fáil’s reversal in fortunes in recent opinion polls deliver a second seat? Will the Labour Party come off life support, and will Sinn Féin bounce back from a bashing in the local elections? And what impact – if any – will the ‘Oughterard effect’ have on the result of the 2020 General Election in the Galway West constituency?

Dealing with the last question first, all eyes will be on the performance of Independent TD, Noel Grealish, who plunged himself into the eye of political storms in 2019 with controversial statements about migrants.

His opposition to a Direct Provision centre in Oughterard – when he described Christian refugees fleeing Syria as “genuine” and African asylum seekers as “economic migrants” who come to Ireland to “sponge” off the system – have been described as thinly-veiled racism by political opponents and commentators.

Far from cave-in to requests to apologise, however, Deputy Grealish doubled down on the comments some weeks later during Leaders Questions when he asked for assurances from An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, that “astronomical” amounts of money, or personal remittances, sent home to Nigeria were “not the proceeds of crime and fraud”.

Supporters argue he was entitled to ask the question, and there is a proportion of the electorate who are sick of the being told what they can or cannot say or think by the ‘PC-brigade in Dublin 4’.

Deputy Grealish certainly is not politically correct, which will repel some of the 7,187 voters who gave him a ‘number one’ in 2016, but his views may strike a chord with a cohort of voters in Galway West, in the same way Peter Casey garnered 20% of first preferences in the presidential election for anti-Traveller comments.

Solidarity/People Before Profit candidate, Joe Loughnane, who couldn’t muster enough support to win a City Council seat last May, hasn’t a hope of taking a Dáil seat either. But his profile during the Oughterard episode, as chairman of GARN, Galway Anti-Racism Network, has been higher, and it will be interesting to see if he can increase his share of the vote.

If Fine Gael doesn’t hold its two seats here, then it will be under serious pressure to remain the largest party in the Dáil to form a Government.

 

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Election 2020

Labour fails to make up ground

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Galway West Labour Party candidate Niall McNelis and his wife Aideen at the Galway West count centre on Monday morning.

On the canvass three weeks ahead of the election, Cllr Níall McNelis told the Galway City Tribune he believed Labour’s time “on the bold step” had come to an end.

But as soon as ballot boxes were opened on Sunday morning, it became apparent that wasn’t the case. In fact, the first preference vote share for Labour in Michael D Higgins’ former constituency had decreased to just 3% – a further decline from the 5% Derek Nolan managed in 2016.

Labour’s hammering wasn’t contained to Galway and it’s clear they haven’t been forgiven for their time in Government with Fine Gael. Nonetheless, Cllr McNelis said he was “devastated” by the result when he visited the count centre on Monday morning.

He’d been eliminated on the fourth count the day before, having received 1,548 first preferences.

“I was at home yesterday – I was devastated, gutted, but I know it’s not personal. The party is in trouble and we’re going to have to look at that. The unions have left us and they’re voting for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael. That was our core vote; we were a workers’ party once upon a time.

“We were the party that fought for marriage equality long before anybody else – the SocDems have taken that mantel off us; the repeal of the 8th Amendment, we were the ones who fought for that,” said Cllr McNelis.

“The Left vote is very, very crowded here in Galway so [Labour is] going to have to regroup and reorganise. I have to explain what Níall does a bit more. The result that we got, people have been ringing me and saying, ‘Níall, we’re sorry, it was Labour and not Níall’.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Election 2020

Down but not out – Crowe considering Seanad bid

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Seanad bid: Galway West Fianna Fáil candidate Ollie Crowe during the count.

When one door closes, another opens. That appeared to be the motto of Ollie Crowe, who bowed out of the race in Galway West on the seventh count.

No sooner had the electorate shut the door on his hopes of taking a second seat for Fianna Fáil, the city councillor was contemplating a bid for a seat in the Upper House of the Oireachtas.

“We just came up short; the national trend affected it in the last couple of days. I was delighted to get 5,200 first preferences in my first time standing for Dáil Éireann. I’m disappointed but I feel overall, I revitalised Fianna Fáil in the city and rebuilt the party.

“I’m honoured and humbled that public representatives have asked me to stand for the Seanad and that’s something we’ll discuss over the coming days and weeks and make a decision on that,” he said.

Cllr Crowe told Galway City Tribune that Fianna Fáil made a mistake supporting Fine Gael in ‘Confidence and Supply’ for four years. “We probably stayed in too long – four years is too long. People wanted change, people spoke for change and we were too aligned with the Government.”

He said that a coalition with Sinn Féin “wouldn’t be my preference”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Election 2020

Party unstuck by a green wave of a different hue

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Galway West Green Party candidate Pauline O’Reilly with her daughter Cara (9) after she was eliminated.

Pauline O’Reilly’s biggest supporter, her daughter Caragh, cuddled into the Green Party councillor’s side as she gave an interview to the Galway City Tribune at the count centre on Sunday, after being eliminated on the sixth count in Galway West.

The nine-year-old was by her mother’s side last May as well, when Cllr O’Reilly – and two other Galway councillors, Martina O’Connor and Alastair McKinstry – was elected in the local elections on the back of a ‘Green wave’.

Less than a year later, and ger Dáil bid came unstuck by another green wave – green of a Republican tinge.

She was tipped by many political pundits and rival candidates, as the likely beneficiary if Galway West returned two ‘left’ seats. And a TG4 constituency poll the week before voters cast their ballots, confirmed Cllr O’Reilly was bang in contention. But then came the surge for Sinn Féin, which her supporters felt on the doorsteps.

“We knew a week out that I was in trouble; I felt in the last couple of days support had shifted back a bit. I wasn’t shocked when I saw the tallies because I was feeling the worry a week ago and I knew it hadn’t come back sufficiently. Certainly, a lot of younger people, children and teens, were upset at the lack of conversation about climate and the environment but it just wasn’t coming up strongly enough with adults,” she said.

Cllr O’Reilly took 6% of the vote with 3,650 first preferences, an increase of 3.5% compared with Seamus Sheridan in 2016, but she was swamped by Sinn Féin’s rise.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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