Standing in the middle of the betting ring in the race track in Ballybrit on a balmy summer's evening, admiring the show put on by the bookmakers, is a sight to behold.
The good ones are good. There is much more to it than the activities in the ordinary high street bookmaker’s outlet. These people are performers. Their lines matter. Their words impact on their day's trade. Brian Graham of the Belfast based bookie, Sean Graham, is one of these performers. He stands on his pitch bellowing out all the right lines:
"Step right up, step right up, runners and riders now please. If you’re not on you’re not in and you can’t win." He continues, "Let them in, let them out, don’t block the shop door." It is theatre and some people are drawn to bet on his pitch because of his lines, not his odds. As we move in to the final months of local election 2019, this resonates with Insider.
The runners and riders are stepping up and becoming clearer. Come count day, the electorate will not block the door. Some candidates will be let in and some let out. The joys of the winners will be mixed with the pain of the losers. On such days, humanity is both wonderful and vicious. In the world of politics, the count centre is ‘the ring’. Entertaining and enthralling.
Galway City East is the only one of the three local electoral areas in the city where all six of the present sitting councillors have declared their intention to seek re-election: Michael J Crowe (Fianna Fáil ), Mairead Farrell (Sinn Féin ), John Walsh (Fine Gael ) [pictured above with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy], and Noel Larkin, Declan McDonnell, and Terry O’Flaherty (Independents ).
As we go to print, they will be joined on the ballot paper by Alan Cheevers (Fianna Fáil ), Owen Hanley (Social Democrats ), Conor Burke (Solidarity - pictured above ), and Donal Lynch (Fine Gael ). Insider understands Labour is in discussions with several people and will announce soon, and that there are also a number of others considering running as independents. The Green Party is also on the lookout.
The most striking thing about the current make-up of the sitting councillors is that three of the six are independent and all three are from the Mervue area. For 50 per cent of the electoral areas representatives to be independent, and from the same neighbourhood, is somewhat unusual - some say a one off. The one sure thing is, there definitely will be no increase in the Independent numbers.
That old saying, past performance is a good indicator of future conduct, leads Insider to believe that O’Flaherty [pictured above with Galway City Central candidate Padraig Conneely] and McDonnell are safe as houses and both will make it on the first count. Despite O’Flaherty being around a long time, she is not the best performer on policy detail, but she has a big support base. McDonnell also has a large support base and it will be a competition between these two to see which of them tops the poll.
Crowe and Farrell should also both be OK. Interestingly they have similar styles: low key a lot of the time, they have strong core beliefs, and are not afraid to step away from the crowd went it matters. Both outside the current controlling pact, they have been the two more impressive performers on the council.
The final two seats are where it might get interesting. Fine Gael is certain of one seat and is hoping the party's currently favourable poll numbers remain this way until election day. If so, it will be in with a shout for two seats. John Walsh is the incumbent and is a favourite to hold on. Donal Lynch is beginning to make some strides, and although it will be uphill for him, he may have an outside chance.
Insider remains confident of the chances of Galway City East returning three Independents. Noel Larkin [pictured above with Croation president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic] has not been the most prominent of representatives but he has been quietly working away and this might be enough to see him home ahead of Alan Cheevers, who 'hasn’t gone away you know'. Cheevers has been putting in an effort within the community and has not disappeared like many before him. Some astute observers are of the view that there is a seat for either of these, but not both. Conor Burke of Solidarity ran in the 2014 local elections, so it will be interesting to watch how he goes this time. Owen Hanley [pictured below] from the Social Democrats is a good young candidate, but Insider thinks that his time has not yet come. He may be one for the future.
All in all, as you read this today, it looks like there will not be enormous change in this electoral area. That said, this conclusion is reached on what is currently obvious. There is plenty of time for others to declare, which might muddy the waters for all the aforementioned candidates.
Eleven weeks tomorrow and fates will be decided. Insider does not envy the candidates and their teams for this period. The hard slog that must be put in, at times feels thankless - and regularly at a door they are told in unparliamentary language exactly what the householder thinks. That same householder may need some assistance in the future but that is not always a factor in their immediate thoughts. It is all part and parcel of the challenge. To you the reader, Insider says this; decisions are made by those who show up, so if nothing else, go and vote on May 24 and have your say. Otherwise remain silent until 2024.