Farrell, Cubbard, Keane - the coming generation?

Who are the councillors of today who could become the Galway West TDs of tomorrow?

Sinn Féin's Mairead Farrell and her family celebrate her election to the Galway City Council in 2014. Could she yet become a Galway West TD? Photos by Mike Shaughnessy

Sinn Féin's Mairead Farrell and her family celebrate her election to the Galway City Council in 2014. Could she yet become a Galway West TD? Photos by Mike Shaughnessy

THE LATE Bobby Molloy clocked in an astonishing 37 years as TD for Galway West, being first elected in 1965, and eventually standing down in 2002. The only other TD to yet come close to that tally is Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuív who celebrates 25 years in Dáil Éireann this year.

Holding the safest seat in the State, Dep Ó Cuív is unlikely to be relinquishing it any time soon, to the extent that, while it is hard to imagine he will be able to equal Molloy's record, no one would be surprised to see the 66-year-old at least reach the '30 years a TD' mark. Yet within this comes another, oppositional, point - Dep Ó Cuív will not be a TD forever, and at some point FF will need a new flag bearer. The same applies to all TDs currently sitting - they will eventually retire, stand down, or lose their seat - and there will always be ambitious, hungry, politicians waiting in the wings for that day.

Galway West's current TDs are Dep Ó Cuív; Hildegarde Naughton and Seán Kyne (Fine Gael ), and Noel Grealish and Catherine Connolly (Independents ). Ó Cuív (25 years ) and Grealish (15 years ) are currently the longest serving. Dep Kyne was first elected in 2011, while Naughton and Connolly were both elected last year.

Both FG TDs are young, so the question for that party is, not to do with emerging talent, but whether it can keep both TDs in their seats at the next election. Insider imagines Dep Connolly has a few Dáil terms to go before she retires from politics, while Dep Grealish appears to have his Oranmore seat for as long as he wants it.

Yet, Insider comes back to this point - eventually they will retire, and will want to see someone take over who shares their politics, outlook, and vision, leading Insider to her key point - who among today's current political generation look most likely to eventually make their way to the Dáíl?

Peter Keane

First, let's consider Fianna Fáil. The party has a safe, unassailable, seat in Connemara, but no commanding presence in the city (yes, there is Ollie and Mike Crowe, but neither appears to want to run for the Dáil ), and has effectively surrendered the Oranmore area to Dep Grealish (and to a lesser extent to Fine Gael ). Given it took more than 24 per cent in the 2016 election, it can realistically challenge for two seats. Fine Gael took two seats last year on a slightly smaller vote, leaving many FFers grumbling about the party's notoriously poor Galway West vote management.

The main contenders for 'FF's man in the city' (and yes, it is FF, so it will be a man ) are councillor Peter Keane and former city councillor John Connolly. The presence and profile of Cllr Keane in recent times has struck Insider, and left her in no doubt he is positioning himself as a serious candidate for selection for the Galway West ticket come the next election. He has been actively canvassing, including in areas outside his council constituency of Galway City West, showing he knows he needs to build a cross-city profile and wider name recognition.

While Cllr Keane is busy getting out and about, John Connolly continues to be the 'quiet man' of Galway West. His low-key style betrays a 'Will I? Won't I?' ambivalence about running, and he may already find himself lagging behind Dep Keane in the race to be included on the next ticket. Yet, Dep Connolly was a surprise choice for the 2016 election and did well for someone who had been out of active politics since 2009 (he lasted until the 12th of 14 counts ), picking up decent numbers of votes in areas where he was not well known. With that in mind, if Connolly gets his mojo working, he could give Cllr Keane a run for his money.

However, as long as Dep Ó Cuív is there, the lion's share of the FF vote will go to him, as will substantial numbers of FF votes in Galway city, particularly its western area - which also happens to be the heartland for both Keane and Connolly. They may have to wait until the King of Connemara retires before getting a real shot at the Dáil.

mike cubbard 2014

Cllr Mike Cubbard has already let it be known he will run in the next election. He first ran in 2011, but this was a dry run for his successful 2014 campaign for a city council seat. His 2016 result saw him take 3.3 per cent and a combined total of 2,533 votes - a very modest tally, but Michael D Higgins only got five per cent on his first time out in 1969 and former FG TD Pádraic McCormack received just 2.7 on his initial run in 1977. It would be many years before either man was elected to the Dáil.

Insider considers Cllr Cubbard to have the stamina and determination for the long haul. She has also been impressed by the young councillor's work rate, commitment to local issues, and work on the ground. He also has an ability to appeal to different sectors of the electorate. Some see him as Left and in touch with working class needs. It will also be noted that Dep Noel Grealish helped him in his local election campaign, and that that centre/centre-right vote will also be invaluable.

So could Cllr Cubbard be the heir to Dep Grealish? Insider would not bet against it, he's certainly one to watch.

Insider is pleased that Galway West finally has two women among its TDs. She is even more pleased that a future TD could yet be Sinn Féin councillor Mairead Farrell. On Twitter, Cllr Farrell describes herself as 'Feminist. Socialist. Republican' - now that's Insider's kind of politician.

Sen Trevor Ó Clochartaigh will be SF's candidate at the next election, but the day will come (Tiocfaidh ár lá? ) when the party will have to add Cllr Farrell to the ticket. Initially she will have to be content being the sweeper who gets Sen Ó Clochartaigh into the Dáíl. However, Insider is convinced her qualities will no longer be able to be overlooked and that she will eventually be elected as SF TD for Galway West in the coming years.

Her intelligence, articulateness, work-rate, and ability mark her out as a serious emerging talent - and she shares many intellectual and political traits with Dep Catherine Connolly. Yes, Cllr Farrell could be Connolly's heir, but for this feminist, the idea of both women serving Galway West in the Dáil is a very exciting prospect.



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