New faces to hold on in June?

Cllr Michael Crowe — tipped to hold on.

Cllr Michael Crowe — tipped to hold on.

The 2004 Local Elections heralded sweeping changes on the Galway City Council - eight new faces, two new parties in Sinn Fein and the Greens, and a new alliance to control the election of Mayor.

A lot was expected of our new councillors as many felt the sweeping changes the electorate brought about could only be positive for the city. Almost five years on, Insider takes a look at the performance of the new councillors and contemplates each one’s chances in June’s Elections.

The current Mayor, Padraig Conneely was arguably the luckiest councillor to be elected in ‘04 holding on by just one vote at a crucial point during the count. Insider believes he will fare much better this time out and could very well be first elected in the competitive Galway City Central ward.

While his argumentative approach is at times over the top, few would dispute his effectiveness and hard work as a councillor.

Verdict: Comfortable hold.

Labour’s Billy Cameron is another hard working councillor who will be disputing favouritism with Conneely to top the poll. It is widely known that there is no love lost between him and his party colleague Colette Connolly, however Cllr Cameron has a strong base in Newcastle and will have Michael D firmly in his corner during the campaign.

Verdict: Comfortable hold.

Colette Connolly could be vulnerable to a strong Independent like Mike Geraghty. Colette is by far the best paid councillor in City Hall, getting allowances for SPC chair, chair of City Development Board, membership of Harbour Company on top of the €15,000 she earns as a councillor.

Despite this, on many occasions she is unable to attend meetings at 4pm and misses important debates before she joins the meetings at 6pm. She will be in the melting pot with Geraghty fighting for the final seat.

Verdict: Too close to call.

Fianna Fáil’s John Connolly was the first elected in this ward in 2004 but don’t expect a repeat performance next time out. While Cllr Connolly is arguably the best FF performer in the chamber he is outshone by Conneely and Cameron on the ground. Many in FF are worried that his low public profile has damaged his chances and he could be vulnerable to Bohermore’s Ollie Crowe.

Verdict: Probable hold.

Michael J Crowe topped the poll as an independent candidate in ‘04 in the old North and East Ward. However shortly after his election he did a U-turn and joined Fianna Fáil, the party he was deeply critical of during the election campaign.

Crowe performed better than most expected in the 2007 General Election and has aspirations to one day take a seat in Leinster House. He has however, lost his base in Bohermore and with it more than 300 first preference votes - +30 per cent of his 2004 first preferences.

It is clear the FF machine will be behind Leahy, however Crowe has the benefit of a formidable machine himself and Insider expects him to hold his seat.

Verdict: Probable hold.

Fine Gael’s Brian Walsh was second elected in 2004 and was elected the city’s youngest mayor after just 12 months in the chamber. Like Cllr John Connolly, Walsh is a solid performer and is widely regarded as having been a good mayor. Two years ago he was being tipped to replace Padraic McCormack as FG’s sole Galway West TD. However he disappointed many in FG by choosing not to contest the election citing his young family as the reason. He is still young enough to run for the Dáil and is expected to hold his seat on the city council.

Verdict: hold.

Daniel Callanan was elected a Sinn Féin councillor but has since declared his independence. He is arguably one of the most capable councillors in the chamber. However his abilities are often used in a negative rather than a positive way. His argumentative style has caused most abandonment of meetings and his stand-off with the Mayor over the removal of a clamp, when he himself had several removed, shows a distinct weakness in his political judgment.

After months of hesitation he has changed his mind and decided to contest the elections after all. However Insider believes the additional seat in Galway City West will go to Fianna Fáil and Callanan will lose out.

Verdict : Independent loss.

Despite the fact that the Greens are in Government, support for the party is holding up and this will ensure Niall Ó Brolcháin will retain his seat. Galway City West now has five seats to fill, up one from 2004. Ó Brolcháin enjoys a good profile having served as mayor in 2006/ 07. His vote in the 2007 General Election was lower than expected, however he will have enough support to retain the only Green seat on the council.

Verdict: hold.

Overall it looks like most of the new councillors elected in 2004 will be returned thereby signalling the electorate’s approval for their performance over the past five years.

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