Hambleton co-option speculation dismissed as anti-Connolly Fianna Fail plot

It is not only the Irish political landscape and Galway West which look set to be transformed by tomorrow’s General Election, but the Galway City Council as well.

Five councillors are running for a Dáil seat while others are known to be interested in campaigning for the Seanad. If any are successful it will lead to co-options onto the council to replace them, leading to an array of new faces in City Hall.

Five city councillors are standing for election - Fine Gael’s Brian Walsh and Hildegarde Naughton, Labour’s Derek Nolan, Fianna Fáil’s Michael J Crowe, and Independent Catherine Connolly.

Walsh, Connolly, and Nolan stand the best chance of being elected to the Dáil. If they succeed they will be obliged to give up their council seat to concentrate fully on their Oireachtas commitments.

This would not lead to any by-elections in the city but instead replacement candidates would be co-opted onto the council and already there is intense speculation as to who they might be.

If Cllr Walsh takes a Dáil seat, his successor will be chosen from the Galway City East ward which he currently represents. This would result in much competition between Fine Gael’s Renmore, Mervue, and Castlegar branches, but the main contenders are likely to be Barra Nevin and Frank Fahy, who both ran in the 2009 local elections.

Should Cllr Naughton take a seat, some FG sources suspect former mayor John Mulholland could make a comeback to City Hall.

Labour is also having to consider a replacement should Cllr Nolan prove victorious. Again the replacement would come from Galway City East.

It has been speculated that a family member could be co-opted but it is understood Cllr Nolan is uncomfortable with the idea, feeling that it smacks of nepotism and “old style politics”.

“Various names have been mentioned but nobody’s head has risen above the parapet,” said a Labour source. “We don’t want to count our chickens before they are hatched so any such discussion must wait until after the election, but if we have to choose someone, it has to be a person that can keep Derek’s council seat at the next locals.”

There was intense speculation that An Taisce’s Derrick Hambleton would take over Cllr Connolly’s seat, should she win after Friday. However sources close to Cllr Connolly have rubbished the notion.

“Nobody has been lined up as a replacement and that is something we would only decide after the election if Catherine is elected,” said a source. “The decisions will be made a group decision of Catherine, her campaign team, and main allies.”

It is understood that any replacement would have to come from Cllr Connolly’s ward of Galway City West and, given her views on the numbers of women in politics, it is likely she would prefer to see a female co-opted.

Speculation persists that this may have been a Fianna Fail plot to scare voters away from Cllr Connolly.

Once the General Election is over, the Seanad election will follow almost immediately after. FG councillor Pádraig Conneely is known to favour running for the upper house and Labour’s Niall McNelis may also throw his hat into the ring.

If both, or either are successful, further co-options will have be undertaken as a result.


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