Will the PDs gift control of county council to Fianna Fáil?

The PDs may be about to be swallowed up into the bowels of Fianna Fáil, but if this happens, they will guarantee the Soldiers of Destiny the right to control the Galway County Council after the 2009 Local Elections.

Every Oireachta member who serves Galway has served on Galway County Council. It is a finishing school for Galway’s political elite just like St Jarlath’s is for Galway football.

So for the purposes of this article, Insider will concentrate on the real bell weather constituency - Galway County Council - rather than the Ballymagash outfit that looks after our townie brethren.

Whoever is going to replace the current Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members will have to show well in the 2009 locals. New faces with Dáil prospects are most likely only in Galway East, but they could well be new faces and same old surnames.

FF lost six seats in the last local elections - two in Ballinasloe, two in Loughrea, one in Tuam, and one in the Oranmore electoral areas and the party currently has “elevenish” seats.

After June 2004 there were 10 elected. This increased to 11 with the return of the Oughterard prodigal son Seamus Walsh. Then, Michael ‘the stroke’ Fahy was in that frozen limbo of resigning the whip but staying in the party. So FF were back to 10 councillors with the FF whip and 11 councillors with FF membership.

If current speculation is true, FF may even have at least the two current PD councillors - Tom Welby and Jim Cuddy - with FF membership forms on their desk. So perhaps FF could end up with at least 13 before the election.

Are you confused yet because this is about to get even more complex?

Let’s take one area at a time. First is The Kingdom of Ó Cuív - Connemara – which currently has four sitting FF councillors and three safe seats in Seamus Walsh, Connie Ní Fhatharta, and Sean O’Tuairisg.

Cllr Josie Connelly will probably lose his seat to a resurgent Fine Gael Mannion in Clifden. This will be an FG gain in Connemara so FF are down one unless Tom Welby switches to FF from the PDs.

This is inevitable and the only decision will be whether he plays it cute and waits until after the local elections to join. There is talk of an FF candidate in Moycullen - either Noel Thomas or Louise O’Connor - who might unseat Cllr Sean Kyne but that is regarded as a long shot by senior party people. So Connemara is an FG gain and overall a PD/FF loss.

Back across the Corrib to the previously unassailable Mary “They robbed my convention” Hoade’s Oranmore electoral area. Life has been cruel to Mary and the boundary commission just cut her vote in two and left her with an unenviable choice.

Switch into the Tuam electoral area along with a newly appointed, better-placed, Fine Gael Cllr Michael Carey or stay put where you live and be joined on the FF ticket with Jim Cuddy (should he go FF if the PDs go belly-up ).

If Cllr Hoade does not go into Oranmore, she will have to listen and put up with the antics of Tom Reilly in Tuam. Either way, FF is left with no candidate in the heavily populated Oranmore/Maree/Clarinbridge region unless Brian Carr of Paddy Burke’s fame runs.

If he does he will be a shoo in but it would mean curtains for either Cuddy or Hoade. Given the population of the southern end of this ward, it should elect two and the northern end elect two. At present, Carr, Cuddy, and Hoade are in the northern end. So it’s as you are here with a change of personality, the FF/PD axis hanging onto two out of four.

However, if Mary H moves into Tuam to join Tom Reilly on the ticket, this vast seven seater should easily give FF three or four seats.

Reilly will be elected and Hoade should on past form mount a strong enough campaign to win a seat. However Fine Gael Cllr Tom McHugh, after such a great Dáil campaign, is likely to be the poll topper here and could drag in another along with Cllr Tiernan Walsh.

Given three FG, Labour Cllr Colm Keaveney, and two FF, that’s six seats accounted for. Cllr Sean Canney is unchallenged unless Eamon Kitt or some of Micheal’s family are put on the FF ticket, if that happens there may be a gain but more likely it will put out Cllr Reilly.

Speaking of the Kitts, the loss of Mountbellew and Moylough for the Tuam electoral area to Ballinasloe is a gain for them but cold comfort to Cllr Tomás Mannion who looks doomed, now that fellow Kitt loyalist Cllr Michael Connolly joins him.

There is talk Connolly will stay in the Tuam ward but to do so would be political hari kari. The line up in Ballinasloe for FF is Connolly, Mannion, and Cllr James Joyce. So far Ballinasloe town candidate Hugh Dolan will most likely join them. If not Pat Sullivan or Joe Callanan will have to be persuaded back.

Failing that FF will vie for three out of five against Fine Gael’s Cllr Sinead Connaughton, Cllr Michael Mullins, and Cllr Michael Finnerity, and Sinn Féin’s Cllr Dermot Connolly. That’s a lot of heavy hitters and when elephants dance small grass gets trampled, so it could be bye bye Sinn Féin and Finnerity or Tomás Mannion. In all likelihood, an FF and SF loss.

The Loughrea electoral area is the only ward with a hope of an FF gain. The usual talk of Cllr Michael Regan being in difficulty exists but this is mainly coming from his mentors. Stroke Fahy will top the poll in a two fingers to FF party HQ by the south Galway rebels.

If he is an FF candidate he will bring in with him Gerry Finnerity, the only credible choice to win back the seat once held by Michael Cunningham. If the Stroke is Independent expect Fianna Fáil to be decimated.

Any gain will come at the expense of Cllr Michael Mogie Maher, which will be a loss for the PD leader Ciaran Cannon, and one from which he could not recover.

FF may pull one ace out of the pack, which would be if Noel Treacy could persuade one of his children to run and take out Cllr Pat Hynes. FG will doubtlessly gain a seat here with the combination of Bridie Willers and Peter Feeney. With a good candidate in the south-eastern section they can easily unseat Cllr Willie Burke. The overall could be at least one FF gain here but a PD loss.

In conclusion, Insider predicts 14 out of 30 councillors for Fianna Fáil - including the PDs and the half in ‘Stroke’. When the dust has settled there will be four Fianna Fáil in Connemara (down one ), two in Oranmore (no change ), two in Tuam (no change ), two in Ballinasloe (no change ) and three in Loughrea (no change ).

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