The parties will all tell you they’re shattered after the last two years – and to tell the truth so are many of the political journalists’ said one hack on radio recently when asked how the politicians can find it in them to justify their lengthy summer break!
After the longest General Election campaign in memory, coupled with the epic Bertiegate saga and the Lisbon Treaty campaign, one could understand why they’d fancy a quiet period – but you can be sure once August is over minds will quickly turn to the local and European elections as candidates and prospective candidates jostle for position.
Already the speculation in Galway is in full swing – will Michael Crowe and John Connolly team up to make a beautiful partnership in the new Galway City Central ward? Will Labour and Catherine Connolly reconcile or will there be a bloody battle on the streets of the new Galway City West ward? And what about the PDs?
Well all of the parties will, of course, be nervous about these elections. Nationally one senses FG may be the ones to come in for most scrutiny, given that they are starting from a strong position earned in 2004 and that Enda Kenny’s leadership is coming under the microscope, but in Galway it is arguably FF and Labour who will come under most scrutiny.
Let’s take FF first. Leaving aside the disaster of the 2004 local and European elections, one could say FF have had a terrific decade of election results. Three General Election wins and remarkably increasing their vote share in each election in spite of being in power for so long.
FF candidate selection to be dictated by Dublin
A glance at Galway West, however ,makes less appealing viewing for the Soldiers of Destiny. One could say their results in the constituency have been largely counter-cyclical with the vote (which had actually increased in 1992 when the vote collapsed nationally! ) falling from 46 per cent in 1997 to 37 per cent last year.
We can be sure FF HQ – in the shape of Mary Coughlan in the election bunker in Dublin – will demand that a recovery starts next year. They are taking control of candidate selection themselves but will demand that the local organisation works the city and county to deliver results.
In particular FF have cause for concern that the remarkable increase in Galway’s population has largely passed unnoticed to the party organisation who are accused by some of not engaging meaningfully with these new residents.
Privately FF were hoping to double their representation to six seats – before the boundary revision, that is.
Three out of seven in the NE Ward, two out of four in the West and win back the seat in the South Ward. Now they are in a spin after the boundary changes. They’ll still win back the seat in the old South Ward – and the extra seat there makes that a near certainty – but they don’t fancy their chances of three seats in the East and are nervous about the new Central (the old West ) Ward.
The big question that needs to be tackled immediately is how to handle their two big guns, Cllrs Connolly and Crowe. With the transfer of Bohermore into the new Central Ward Cllr Crowe must be tempted to switch. Likewise Cllr Connolly may be tempted to transfer to the new Galway City West as parts of his strongholds around Taylors Hill are to be transferred. The current speculation is, however that Cllr Connolly will stay put but that Cllr Crowe is uncertain.
Perhaps the real question however is this – will FF HQ intervene and impose a solution? And if they do will they feel it is best to keep the two apart in order to assure their two big guns of re-election or will they be daring and go for a big win in the Central Ward by teaming the two together? Already there is some talk that this was the real ‘solution’ being talked about during President Sarkozy’s recent visit and not the Lisbon Treaty!
Peace in our time in Labour
Turning to Labour, they will be starting from a strong position in the City – an extra seat in the East is possible but they’ll be under pressure in the new Central Ward and unless peace is made with Catherine Connolly probably won’t take a seat in the new Galway City West - and so may feel they’ll be doing well to just hold their own.
On the County Council, however, there is some scope for Labour to make progress but lack of confidence and lack of organisational grit could be their biggest enemies.
Bar one seat in Tuam they are unrepresented in the County Council chamber – a look across the county however shows people like Seosamh O Cuaig, Pat Hynes and Dermot Connolly holding seats that many feel would be natural Labour seats. Surely with a long-standing and popular TD in Galway West, Labour should be more than capable of snatching a seat in the seven-seat Connemara Ward for instance – but they seem unconvinced of their chances and are lethargic.
Could Galway see a ‘Gilmore Impact’? We have seen FG do extremely well in Connacht since Enda Kenny assumed the party leadership – can Gilmore do the same for Labour in Galway?
He may be based in Dun Laoghaire for over 20 years but he is very much the Galwayman. Before invigorating the electorate of his native county, however, he first needs to reinvigorate his party members in Galway.
There is much to speculate on – the one thing we can be sure of is this time next year we will be analysing results and the speculation will be about whether these results signal seismic shifts or are just mid-term blues for the victims!