Having secured re-election to the Galway City Council, Fine Gael Mayor Pádraig Conneely now has his sights set on Dáil Éireann and is determined to be on the Fine Gael Galway West ticket at the next general election.
Mayor Conneely would have liked to top the poll in Galway City Central on Saturday, but that honour was to go to Labour’s councillor Billy Cameron. Nonetheless Mayor Conneely polled an impressive 1,012 first preferences and was able to strut proudly around the count centre in Westside before being elected on the fourth count with a combined vote of 1,059.
If one word summed up his reaction to his vote it was ‘vindicated’.
“I came in for criticism that I was too outspoken, too critical, damaging Fine Gael, and that people would not go for that kind of candidate, more than 1,000 people agree with me,” Mayor Conneely told the Galway Advertiser. “The ordinary people of the city have given me the encouragement to keep speaking out, to say what I have to say, and don’t give in.”
No doubt City Hall officials - a regular target of much of Mayor Conneely’s ire since he was first elected in 2004 - will be thrilled to hear they are in for more of the same for the next five years.
“I can assure you that what you have seen in the last five years you will see more of,” he declared. “I will be calling for transparency, openness, and accountability from the manager and the officials to be more accountable, not to me, but to the people who elected me.”
The view of the majority of those elected on Saturday was that the greatest challenge facing the city council and the city itself will be the lack of finances available to the city over the next five years as Government funding dries up during the recession.
As a result, Cllr Conneely will be looking for a special council meeting in September where the finance of the council and the exact money it has for all major and minor works will be made public.
“I will want it all on the table as to where we are as regards finance,” he said. “I want that information so that we will be able to tell the public what we have and what we have not got in terms of money. That way we can let them know what works can be done and what works can not. I want all that information on the table.”
Now that he has been re-elected, Mayor Conneely is starting to look more broadly at his future political career and on Saturday he was adamant that his next election will be the general election - due in 2012, but given the unpopularity of the current Government, possibly sooner.
“I want to run for the Dáil,” he said. “I got 1,000 votes in my own ward and if I can get 1,000 votes in the smallest electorate in the city, then I feel I can get 1,000 votes in Galway City West, Galway City East, Oranmore, and Connemara. People vote for me because of what I am, what I say, and what I do. What they see is what they get. I give 110 per cent. There are no half measures with me.”