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Scramble for share of retiring member’s votes


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Scramble for share of retiring member’s votes Scramble for share of retiring member’s votes

Galway City Central proves the adage that every vote counts. Just ask the Labour Party, who lost a seat here in 2019, when just one vote made the difference.

John McDonagh was not at the races in 2014 but came within a whisker of holding the seat of the retiring-but-not-shy veteran councillor Billy Cameron five years ago.

On the ninth count, he was nine votes adrift of Green Party candidate Martina O’Connor and called a recount. Following a re-count McDonagh, a bus driver, caught up with his Shantalla rival and they were tied with 768 votes each – the newcomer nurse progressed because she had won more first preferences.

It was then a three-horse race for the final two seats with O’Connor and his former Labour colleague, Colette Connolly (Ind) both elected on transfers ahead of Social Democrats’ Sharon Nolan.

Councillor O’Connor was thought to be under severe pressure to retain her seat until Cllr Connolly confirmed last week she was retiring from local politics.

The teacher from Shantalla earned almost 500 first preferences last time, which are now up for grabs.

Logic suggests some are Labour votes and might return to McDonagh; but Shantalla-based women, Councillor O’Connor, who served a year as Deputy Mayor as part of an agreement with the ruling pact at City Hall, and Soc Dem newcomer, Eibhlín Seoighthe will be fishing for a fair chunk of them.

The latter, a community organiser, canvassed for Fine Gael’s Frank Fahy in this Local Electoral Area five years ago. Seoighthe will be hoping to benefit from the popularity of the Soc Dems’ relatively new leader, Holly Cairns, among young voters, to make a breakthrough.

Some of Connolly’s votes were ‘Independent’ and could go to a similarly left leaning but more radical candidate, Margaretta Darcy.

The anti-war campaigner and Áosdana member surprised many when she declared she was running for a Council seat for the first time in her 90th year, having been persuaded to run by Sentient Rights Ireland. Darcy, who was been jailed for her ‘peaceful principles’, has added colour to the campaign, and received some ‘celebrity’ endorsements including from singer Mary Coughlan.

Fine Gael faces the same conundrum as Fianna Fáil does in the two other Local Electoral Areas – can it survive an inevitable mid-term Government backlash and retain two seats?

Pádraig Conneely’s successor, former Galway footballer Eddie Hoare, was the stronger of the two last time, taking 10.6% of first preferences, (compared with Cllr Fahy’s 8.6%); and the accountant has enjoyed a high-profile serving as Mayor.

Less visible on social media, hardworking Cllr Fahy is a streetfighter, though, and will be relying on his track-record of quietly delivering bread and butter issues for constituents on the ground.

He faces a big threat from the rise of Sinn Féin, whose candidate Mark Lohan must be making inroads in Menlo.

Co-opted in 2016 when Anna Marley resigned, Lohan suffered a heavy defeat in 2019, taking less than 5% of first preferences.

The trade union official has remained active since but will need several hundred number ones in his home boxes before crossing the bridge.

If Donal Lyons is the King of Knocknacarra, then Mike Cubbard is the Wonder of Westside – he won a massive 1,293 first preferences in 2019 and is gunning for a third successive poll-topping performance which has never been achieved by any candidate in this electoral area.

Regaining a seat is a certainty and the Independent will probably chance another tilt at the Dáil in the General Election within 12 months.

It would be unthinkable for Fianna Fáil not to return a seat in this former stronghold, which is why the party hierarchy – including former and current ministers – are pulling out all the stops for newcomer Josie Forde.

Ollie Crowe took the second seat in 2019 with 1,006 first preferences. Imelda Byrne – who won 490 – was co-opted into his place when he was elevated to Seanad Éireann, but she never settled and announced early she was not running again.

Even if half of the 1,500 Fianna Fáil votes were lost, the party’s sole candidate Forde, in Corrib Park, would still survive to become the first FF woman elected (not co-opted) to Galway City Council since Margaret Cox in 1999.

Aontú’s Pádraig Lenihan, a retired Army officer and history lecturer, who is steeped in Fianna Fáil, will target those ‘soft’ FF voters. His aunt and godmother is Mary O’Rourke, the former Minister and TD; his cousin was the late Brian Lenihan, former Minister for Finance; and his father was the late Paddy Lenihan, a Roscommon Councillor.

People Before Profit’s best chance of a breakthrough and historic first seat in Galway is here, where mature student Adrian Curran appears more palatable, polished, and able than previous candidates and could have an impact.

Shauna Ridge for Independent Ireland is based in Kilkerrin while Mary Cummins (Irish Freedom Party), Patric Feeney (non-party) and Sean Comer (The Irish People) are also on the ballot.

Controversial non-party Dara O’Flaherty, in Clarinbridge, is before the courts charged with threatening to kill or seriously harm Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton.

Pictured: City Central

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