A rough guide to Galway City West Ward

The new local election ward of Galway City West - formerly and confusingly known as the South Ward - is located around Salthill, Knocknacarra, and the Claddagh. This ward now has a new section adjacent to Taylor’s Hill.

The sitting councillors are Donal Lyons (PD ), Catherine Connolly (Ind ), John Mulholland (FG ) and Niall Ó Brolcháin (Green ).

In the last local elections in 2004 Cllr Lyons topped the poll with 1,656 votes. Cllr Connolly came next with 1,265 votes, Cllr Mulholland had 950 votes, and Ó Brolcháin 881. Irelands largest party Fianna Fáil failed to win a seat here for the first time which surprised some commentators.

Three of the four councillors stood in the 2007 general election, with Ó Brolcháin coming out on top with 3,026 votes. Connolly got a very respectable 2,006, while Lyons was disappointed with his poor showing of 1,168.

With just nine months to go to the next local election in June 2009 speculation has already started as to how things might pan out. With an extra seat added to the mix, conventional wisdom has it that the four sitting councillors will retain their seats with Fianna Fáil taking the fifth - but expect much spin and nonsense before then.

We have already seen the emergence of an apparent Fianna Fáil poll which suggests the party will take two seats while having no obvious candidate for even one.

This would appear to be bordering on the ridiculous. The names that have emerged from the Fianna Fáil camp are former mayor Val Hanley, and relative unknowns Phelim O’Neill and Peter Keane.

As of now Hanley would be by far the strongest candidate of the three.

The PDs who once held two seats here are fading fast as a party but Cllr Lyons is thought to be a very safe bet locally. The problem he faces is that everyone knows the PDs will be gone after the local elections.

Speculation has already started as to whether he will join Fine Gael or FF with FG being the favourite. It is possible the PDs will run a second candidate but it is also possible that Lyons will not run as a PD at all.

Labour are at sixes and sevens now their former torch bearer Catherine Connolly has gone independent. While there may be moves to entice her back, this would cause enormous internal friction.

As an independent she is thought to be a very safe bet as it will give her the freedom to indulge in her own brand of hard left politics without the millstone of an ageing Labour Party around her neck.

The most likely Labour candidate is former FG man Niall McNelis, a gifted PR specialist and local businessman. With local TD Michael D Higgins behind him he should not be written off.

The Greens have a straightforward task of retaining the seat won by Niall Ó Brolcháin in the last local elections. It is never going to be easy for the Greens as they are relative newcomers to Galway politics but with a strong showing in the 2007 general election and his stint as a very high profile mayor it is hard to see him losing out in 2009.

Fine Gael should be the strongest party in this ward as the demographics favour them. Their long serving councillor John Mulholland is the safest bet but their chances of winning a second seat here are remote.

Mulholland has hardly set the world on fire over the last number of years and there is the feeling he is only running again because FG has no obvious replacement. Maureen Egan who ran for FG last time out has not managed to build on her strong showing.

Maybe they will pull some county footballer out of the fire but their best bet for a second seat is to woo Cllr Lyons into their fold.

Sinn Féin is not on the up but doubtlessly it will run a candidate here. There is even speculation SF will entice Cllr Daniel Callanan back to run in the area where he lives.

It would be foolish to completely write off his chances as he is a formidable campaigner.

Possible independents are thin on the ground. There has been idle speculation about various possible candidates but if Catherine Connolly and Daniel Callanan are set to run, the independent field would already be too overcrowded for anyone else to have a realistic tilt at a seat. An immigrant candidate is a strong possibility though.

Prediction: The four sitting councillors to hold with the fifth seat being fought out by Callanan, McNelis, and Hanley.

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