Could it be possible that after the General Election Galway city would have no political representation in the Dail? Yes, it is, and it would appear to Insider that three of the main political parties – Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, and Sinn Féin – intend it to be that way.
Despite Galway West/South Mayo being a five-seater, the outcome could leave urban Galway with half of the electorate being represented by five male, rural based, TDs in Sean Kyne (FG ) Eamon Ó Cuív (FF ), and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (SF ) all from Connemara; John O’Mahony (FG ) from Mayo; plus Independent Noel Grealish from Carnmore.
It is true that Fine Gael has a city candidate in Sen Hildegarde Naughton, but the Mayo-dominated FG leadership will be making every effort to ensure their fellow Mayo man, Dep O’Mahony, will take Brian Walsh’s seat. Hildegarde will not be left high and dry as she will be guaranteed her sinecure in the Seanad. Fianna Fáil knows it will win only one seat in the constituency and that is for poll topper Ó Cuív. It did not even bother standing a city-based candidate.
Sinn Fein has also plumped not to run a city candidate. Running one of its three sitting local councillors as a sweeper alongside the Connemara senator would have been the obvious plan. However, it is believed Sen Ó Clochartaigh feared he would prove to be the sweeper and SF’s first elected TD in Galway since Liam Mellows would be the niece and namesake of another republican, Sinn Fein city councillor Mairead Farrell.
Most of the media, and all of the other political parties, were convinced Cllr Farrell would be added to the SF ticket late on in the day. Apparently, even a local printing company recently wrote seeking the job of producing her election material. However, the powers-that-be within SF are banking on the party’s radical sounding brand bringing Sen Ó Clochartaigh over the finishing line. This is despite him being virtually unknown within the city limits due to his preference for the comfort and pomp of the Seanad.
Cllr Farrell was deemed “too Left”. Her socialist and feminist views run contrary to the aim of turning SF into Fianna Fáil Nua. As has been outlined before on this page, this led to an anti-Left witch-hunt against the personable and hardworking councillor inside the constituency organisation to ensure she did not get the SF ticket. The greatest irony of this debacle is that those opposed to Cllr Farrell (which it must be stressed did not include Sen Ó Clochartaigh himself ), are believed to include members of Sinn Fein’s Mairead Farrell Cumann in Galway’s Central Ward. As one local SF cynic was heard to quip: “If there was life after death, volunteer Mairead Farrell would be turning in her grave.”
Those in FG, FF, and SF could, of course, argue that having city councilors means the problems facing Galway city will be relayed by them to their future rural-only TDs. But Insider knows that it does not work like that. Once the TDs are elected to the ivory tower in Leinster House there is precious contact with their councillors at the local coalface.
Will a woman get elected?
There are a host of city candidates running in the election, but very few of them are in contention for a seat. Labour’s incumbent, Dep Derek Nolan, took the seat last time around on the basis that he and his party would prevent Fine Gael making the people pay for the economic crisis. Labour patently broke that commitment.
The coalition parties can spin as much as they want that the Irish economy is in “recovery”, but those Galwegians - whether on the endless housing and hospital waiting lists, who have lost their off-spring to mass emigration, or are at financial breaking point due to the property tax or some other punitive Government imposition - know this “recovery” is a mirage, which will disappear when the new government is elected.
Dep Nolan too is forever linked to the hated water tax, which ultimately is an attempt to put our public water supply into greedy private hands. For all those reasons he may, politically speaking - and if you’ll pardon the pun – be dead in the water! Besides, why vote Fine Gael lite when you can vote for the real thing?
One hope the city electorate has of local representation comes from Shantalla-born-and-bred Independent, Cllr Catherine Connolly. She has vast experience of the problems facing the people of Galway on a host of levels having represented two wards on the city council – the old Westside ward and new West ward – during her more than 15 year tenure as a city councillor.
The Galway Right2Water Campaign has kept politicians at a distance from its platforms. Nevertheless, Connolly has played her own part in the campaign against the water tax: on one occasion at the request of Sandyvale residents preventing the installation of water meters in that estate. The failures of our health system have been top of her agenda as a consistent critical voice on the Health Forum. This has helped her develop a significant base in the Gaeltacht.
Connolly is known for her outspoken and principled stands, even when they are deemed unpopular. She has been uncompromising in seeking an environmentally sound solution to the grid-locked roads through the city. For all these reasons, she is bound to attract support from the thousands of disillusioned Labour voters. She will also attract many women voters when they are once more confronted with a huge phalanx of male candidates.
Three TDs from Connemara?
The political anoraks, who revel in number crunching, cannot see Connemara returning three TDs. It is no accident therefore that Cllr Tom Welby – who is adept at the numbers game - is not running in the General Election. The conclusion of the experts is that Ó Cuív and Kyne will be returned and as ever Ó Clochartaigh will be an also ran, this time being more than 1,500 votes off the winning post.
The nine per cent vote SF accrued during the locals is insufficient for Sen Ó Clochartaigh to take a seat. Besides, Independent Mike Cubbard, who is a sitting councillor in the central ward and resides in the SF heartland of Ballybane, will eat into the SF city vote, as will Cllr Connolly. Few of Cllr Cubbards’ votes, when he is inevitably eliminated, will transfer back to SF. This means we will probably have four male rural TDs with Catherine Connolly being left as the only prospective city TD, and sole female TD, in Galway West/South Mayo.