Major changes to city electoral wards to be announced next week

Galway city’s three electoral wards are next week due for major revisions ahead of next year’s Local Elections with extra seats for two wards, Galway City East to lose a seat, and Menlo, Castlelawn, and Tirellan to be transferred into Galway City Central.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan established the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee late last year to review the local electoral make-up of the State ahead of the 2014 Local Elections. The committee is due to publish its recommendations next week, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

It is already known that Galway City Council will increase from 15 seats to 18 but there has been intense speculation as to how these would be distributed.

In their submissions to the committee, councillors argued for the 18 seats to be distributed among three six seat wards. However as late as last week, Government sources were hinting the city would be divided into two giant nine-seat wards.

With a week to go to the publication of the report, it appears virtually certain that the 3x6 option will now be recommended, especially when Minister Hogan has stated there will be “only two or three nine seat wards” created in the entire State.

The 3x6 option will see Galway remain a three ward city with Galway City West, Galway City Central, and Galway City East.

However there will be significant internal changes which will have major implications for the Local Elections in May 2014.

Galway City West will increase by one seat; Galway City Central will have two new seats; and Galway City East will lose one.

The Menlo, Castlelawn, and Tirellan areas from Galway City East are set to be transferred into an expanded Galway City Central.

This reconfiguration of Galway City Central could see Fine Gael’s Cllr Pádraig Conneely, who normally runs as the party’s sole candidate in the ward, having to take on a running mate. That running mate could very well be party colleague Cllr Frank Fahy.

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Menlo/Tirellan is Cllr Fahy’s electoral base and before the next local elections he may have to consider whether to move with his territory or remain and fight it out in Galway City East.

Another man who may have to consider relocating is Labour’s Cllr Tom Costello whose electoral base is also Menlo, Castlelawn, and Tirellan. However Cllr Costello has the advantage of having represented the east ward for more than 20 years and would be widely known throughout the constituency. In contrast, Cllr Fahy was co-opted onto the council after the 2011 General Election.

Galway City West’s councillors will be happy to see the ward become 3x6 with Independents Donal Lyons and Catherine Connolly remaining in strong positions to top the poll. Labour’s Niall McNelis and Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton are likely to retain their seats despite falling support for the Government.

The extra seat could give an opening to Sinn Féin, although it may struggle in an area that was historically a PD stronghold. The party’s best changes will come in Central and East.

The most interesting battle in West could be for the Fianna Fáil vote. The quota for a six seater is 14 per cent and at current poll figures FF will be short of two quotas to take advantage of the extra seat in the constituency. Sitting councillor Peter Keane will be running again but his likely running mate, David Burke, is very well placed throughout the constituency to pose a serious threat

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