With the Galway City Council being expanded from 15 seats to 18, all parties look set to increase their representation in City Hall, with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin possibly benefiting most.
Independents Catherine Connolly and Donal Lyons can be expected to comfortably top the poll in Galway City West. Labour’s Niall McNelis should hold on given his hard work on the ground over the last five years; campaigning skills; and an appeal which extends beyond core Labour supporters to centre-right voters - an important factor in what is seen as the most conservative of the city’s three wards.
The main battle will be between the old enemies FF and FG, but who wil triumph is extemely hard to call with two months to go to polling day.
FG have enough for two quotas but a consensus is emerging that the party may only take one. Dep Brian Walsh and former Mayor John Mulholland are understood to be supporting Pearce Flannery; while Sen Hildegarde Naughton is backing sitting Cllr Michelle Murphy. As yet it is hard to call which of the two will take the seat.
This gives FF’s Peter Keane and David Burke a chance of winning two. However if Fine Gael have a good day and both Murphy and Flannery are returned, then it may be Burke, who seems the hungrier of the two candidates, who could take the FF seat.
Galway City Central is the most competitive ward but Labour’s Billy Cameron, Fine Gael’s Pádraig Conneely, and Fianna Fáil’s Ollie Crowe are set to be returned.
The remaining three are much harder to call. Fianna Fáil’s Nicola Deacy; Labour candidates Colette Connolly and John McDonagh; Fine Gael’s Frank Fahy; Sinn Féin’s Anna Marley; and Independent Mike Cubbard, are all contenders, but FF, FG, and Labour seem, as of now, the most likely winners.
Galway City East will see Independents Terry O’Flaherty and Declan McDonnell comfortably take seats. FG’s John Walsh, brother of TD Brian, also looks set to be elected. Sinn Féin’s best hope of a seat is Mairead Farrell, and there is a real momentum behind her campaign now. She is very likely to take the fourth seat.
The remaining two seats will be a fight between Fianna Fáil, Labour, and Fine Gael. FF look set to capitalise on Labour’s weakness here, which will benefit the determination of Alan Cheevers to win a seat, and help Michael J Crowe, whose profile has dipped in recent times, to retain his.
While Fianna Fáil winning four in the city is a very real posibility, and an outside chance of five on a very good day, it is extremely difficult to see the party returning with six seats, especially as voters have neither forgiven nor forgotten how the party led the State to financial ruin in 2008.
Labour will not go down without some form of fight and it is understood Galway West TD Derek Nolan has taken over Monica Loughlin’s campaign. Cllr Nuala Nolan remains unimpressed that she is being consistently being written off by pundits. Fine Gael’s remaining candidates of John Rabbitte and Margo Kelly may have lower profiles, but could, on a good day, benefit from John Walsh’s surplus.
There is still eight weeks to go and much can change in that time and probably will, but as of now, it seems Galway city will return four independents (outside chance of five if Mr Cubbard makes it) and one Sinn Féin; with FG and FF making at least one gain each, and Labour possibly loosing a seat