In horse racing parlance it could be said that contenders are in the dip but have not turned into the straight yet and, in what has been forecast as the most competitive of all Wards, Galway City Central should prove to be the mother of all gallops.
The amazing fact that the electorate of the former West Ward chose to elect four new councillors in 2004 indicated an overall citywide desire for change. The dumping of former Mayor and Fianna Fáil councillor Martin Quinn sent out the message that the West Ward desired new fresh voices with conviction.
They certainly achieved that in returning three of the most vocal councillors on the present City Council - Labour’s Billy Cameron and Colette Conneely, Fine Gael’s Padraig Conneely - and to a lesser extent Fianna Fáil Cllr John Connolly.
The performances of the “dream team”, though, have been varied in style. Maybe we should begin with the present mayor and most vociferous of all councillors - Padraig Conneely. The Connemara man would be considered the consummate politician - media savvy in abundance, around the block a few times in various political guises, and ever willing to have a go at officials.
His style is either loved or hated, public opinion is equally divided on Conneely as he has not been seen to promote the city but would rather self-promote at the expense of the city. In all walks of life they say, “You reap what you sow”. His constant disruptions of meetings in the past may come back to haunt him this year as mayor.
The ‘clamping issue’ may be the Achilles heal of Mayor Conneely. It seems set to run, with no love lost between Cllr Danny Callanan and the present mayor. The outspoken Fine Gaeler seems to desire silence on this one but his political savvy will be severely tested.
Councillors may be voting for the expulsion of Cllr Callanan from the chamber for disruptions of meetings but are relishing the embarrassment it is causing Mayor Conneely. The chickens have come home to roost and the longer it continues the more disillusioned the public will become with Conneely.
The ‘clamping’ and his lack of ability to work with people could be his undoing and dent his hopes of the predicted poll topping in Galway City Central.
Labour’s Billy Cameron - born, bred, and working in the West Ward - is seen as a solid hard working performer, linking closely with community groups and residents’ associations while promoting the left wing values of his party on the Galway City Council. Rumoured to be the least ambitious amongst his Labour Party colleagues in respect to Dáil ambitions, Cllr Cameron seems content to be a foot soldier on the ground on behalf of the electorate and the party.
The enlargement of the former West Ward into Galway City Central should hold no fear for Cllr Cameron as the Cameron name is still strong in the Bohermore area.
A quick learner, Cllr Cameron, after two years of council experience immersed himself in the Annual Budget of Galway City Council and is seen as the pact leader in delivering the lowest commercial rates in years, retaining the refuse waiver and directing unprecedented contributions to the arts throughout the city. As Insider has previously said: “Cameron seldom loses the cool but when he does it’s to good effect.”
Despite his delivery for the West Ward and his approachability, he is not seen as a poll topper. However his ability to accumulate transfers from all and sundry may see him through.
Poll-topper last time out, Cllr John Connolly has flown the flag bravely for a decimated Fianna Fáil in the Council Chamber. What Fianna Fáil will be looking to at this stage is whether Connolly has performed strongly enough to ensure an extra seat for the party in the new ward at the expense of Labour.
The Barna based teacher’s political intelligence way exceeds his party colleagues, Mary Leahy and Michael J Crowe, and his performance in the Council Chamber has been consistent but subdued. His weakness is that he has sat on the fence on a number of serious issues in front of a packed Council Chamber but has worked hard on the ground with sports clubs and residents groups.
If he has an iota of ambition, Cllr Connolly will not want to see Cllr Crowe expand his base with the election of his brother Ollie Crowe in the new Galway City Central ward. It is widely known there is no love lost between Connolly and Crowe, so a right dog fight should ensue and insider predicts that the incumbent will win the day.
The last remaining sitting councillor of the ‘dream team’ is Shantalla based Colette Connolly. She has done herself no favours by absenting herself from council meetings until 6pm in the evening. A principled stand - but one that is self defeating.
Cllr Connolly seems to be consumed with planning and is seen as a tedious contributor to debates with what could be called a rant, with various tangents of no consequence to the topic of debate.
Wearing her other hat as PRO to the Shantalla Residents Association she has certainly not done herself any favours, particularly in giving leadership on what could have been a productive and beneficial land swop with University Hospital Galway and her negative stance on the introduction of pay and display to Shantalla. Her future on Galway City Council is hard to call.