For the first time since 1961, Fianna Fáil looks set to run only two candidates in Galway West at the next General Election, expected to take place in spring of 2020.
Joining long serving TD Éamon Ó Cuív on the ticket will be Galway City Central councillor Ollie Crowe, a man who had been tipped as an eventual running mate for Dep Ó Cuív.
Cllr Crowe is one of the city’s best known political figures. He was first elected to City Hall in 2009 and has been returned at each subsequent poll. In May’s local elections he secured 12.61 per cent of the vote (1,008 first preferences ) coming second on the first count, behind Independent Mike Cubbard. His brother, Galway City East councillor Mike Crowe, ran for election to the Dáil in 2007 and 2011.
"I would be honoured to be in a position to work with Dep Ó Cuív and I have huge support from the councillors in the city,” Cllr Crowe told the Galway Advertiser. “We got 4,850 first preference votes in the three areas of the city in the local elections in May, and are by far the largest group on Galway City Council. I have been a wingman in a number of elections now, and believe I have the experience. I am 10 years in public life and have lived and worked my entire life in Galway city and would be well known in Oranmore area as well. I feel the timing is right.”
There will be little surprise at Cllr Crowe’s selection, but more surprise that FF is looking at only running two candidates in a ward where it traditionally ran three or four - even during the party’s lowest electoral ebb in 2011. Others may see it as a bowing to electoral reality, and the realisation that running fewere candidates prevents vote splitting in vote share no longer as large as it was between the 1980s and 2000s.
“It’s my own view that it would be best to have two candidates and run a tight ticket to get the maximum vote out,” says Cllr Crowe. “If you look back to 2007, 2011, and 2016, we had three candidates, and if you look at constituencies, especially in Cork and Dublin, we can see tight tickets work better. The best chance of returning two candidates is to run just two.”
That said, Cllr Crowe acknowledges a third candidate could yet be added if the constituency committee recommend it, but for now, the FF ticket for 2020 appears to be just Ó Cuív and Crowe.
The general consensus, as of now, is that the incumbent TDs - Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Kyne, Hildegarde Naughton, Catherine Connolly, and Noel Grealish - will be difficult to dislodge, but in Cllr Crowe, the Green’s Cllr Pauline O’Reilly, and the Social Democrats Niall Ó Tuathail, there are challengers with the potential to make nothing a foregone conclusion.
Cllr Crowe will be campaigning on issues of investment, healthcare, the homeless crisis, transport, and the environment. “In the last decade, the difference in funding and foreign direct investment between Dublin, Cork, and Limerick on one side, and Galway on the other, has widened,” said Cllr Crowe. “Galway is a distant fourth and that is not acceptable. We are getting left behind. The Government is very Dublin focussed, Dublin based, and makes Dublin based decisions. That has to change.”
Cllr Crowe also believes the outer bypass could be another decade away from being built, and that other transport solutions must also be adopted. “There is no point looking eight, ten, years down the line in relation to the bypass,” he declared. “Realistically we’re looking at 2028/2030 before it may be built. In the meantime, we need short-term transport solutions. I have consistently proposed that the city council’s traffic control system be manned.
"For road works we should be doing more in the evenings, instead of all day long. You can close off a section from six to 10 or six to 11, and people would be willing to do that, provided there is residents access. This would be preferable to what was done recently, over five or six weeks, in Bohermore, a main artery into the city, with the closing down sections of road all day long.”
Cllr Crowe has called the homeless and accommodation crisis “upsetting” and a “huge challenge”. “I help families on a daily basis on this and I see the trauma it brings,” he said. “Rebuilding Ireland is not working. Current levels of housing building are not being done quick enough, we are not identifying the sites, there does not seem to be an overall plan. We need to build social, affordable, and public housing, and to do so at a significant level.”
Regarding health, Cllr Crowe is calling for increased home help hours and for such hours to be made mandatory. In relation to the environment, he wants to see more re-charge points for electric cars in the city
He is also calling for the publication and full implementation of the city council’s environmental section strategy document. “Through that there are huge inroads we can make,” he said, “and people are willing to do that and they are willing to come on board, younger people especially. You see it on a daily basis, they have the initiative.”