Galway City Central is the only ward where no change is likely. The real question here - and the main focus of interest - is which Fianna Fáiler will keep the seat for the party? Cllr John Connolly or Ollie Crowe?
Fine Gael Mayor of Galway Padraig Conneely and Labour councillor Billy Cameron will be vying with each other to top the poll - the bookies are refusing to take bets on their being elected at this stage. Labour Cllr Colette Connolly, although perceived as being weak, should also hold her seat with transfers from Cllr Cameron, Sinn Féin, and maybe FF.
Many feared for Cllr John Connolly’s political future, feeling he had been too low profile and questioning his appetite for staying in politics. The boundary changes caused him to lose some areas in which he had enjoyed a good vote. His section of the ward is also home to councillors Conneely, Cameron, and Colette Connolly, forcing all four names to draw out of the same pool of votes in Westside, Shantalla, and Newcastle.
Mr Crowe on the other hand had inherited brother’s (Cllr Michael J Crowe ) former heartland of Bohermore, Lough Atalia, and College Road. All of the ward east of the Corrib he has to himself with no other major candidate in sight. Then there is the presence of ‘Oliver’s Army’, the considerable local organisation/cavassing team that saw Michael Crowe top the poll in the old North and East Ward in 2004.
In recent weeks though, the momentum has begun to swing behind Cllr Connolly. He is running a strong campaign in Westside (his posters are among the most visible ) and the party has really got behind his campaign. There is also a fear among some elements in Fianna Fáil of what has been dubbed a “take-Crowe-ver” of FF by the Bohermore brothers and many feel a Connolly victory would keep this at bay.
Another important element is the ‘Billy Cameron Factor’. The story in Tuesday’s Irish Independent regarding his Galway City Council expenses may damage him somewhat - particularly with the economic downturn in Ireland and the scandal of British politicians’ expenses.
However Labour do not appear worried by the story and confident that Cllr Cameron has done nothing wrong. Certainly Cllr Cameron still enjoys a high standing among voters and many feel this ‘expensis story’ has been leaked at a curious time - ie, five days before the election - and as such is more ‘dirty tricks’, than ‘shocking revelation’.
As a result, Cllr Cameron’s performance will be important as it could influence the outcome of who takes the Fianna Fáil seat.
Mr Crowe may find it difficult to pick up support in Shantalla and Rahoon, given the propensity of these places to support their own (ie, Colette Connolly, Billy Cameron, and to a lesser extent John Connolly ).
Mr Crowe will do well in Bohermore, but a key to the outcome could be how well Cllr Cameron does. Cllr Cameron would be the only other serious candidate in the field with a base in Bohermore and if he polls well there it may be beyond Mr Crowe at that point.
John Connolly will require decent transfers from independents Mike Cubbard and Mike Geraghty - assuming they are eliminated - or alternatively from Colette Connolly if she goes out. Sinn Féin are unlikely to do well in this ward - Anna Marley is having to run here and in Oranmore - but her transfers are more likely to go to the two Connollys. Mike Cubbard is based in Westside and if he goes out John Connolly would expect to benefit from his transfers.