Labour to adopt risky strategy to keep council seats

Labour is confident it can retain at least four of its five Galway City Council seats, but in running three candidates in Galway City Central, it is taking a high risk strategy.

Labour will hold its Galway city election selection convention on Friday February 7 to nominate candidates for the 2014 Local Elections on May 23.

Despite the drop in public support for the party and the heavy criticism it has taken for its role and performance in Government, Labour members believe it can retain its position as the largest single party in City Hall.

Nonetheless it will be a difficult task as floating voters and Left voters cannot be relied on with numerous Left alternatives presenting themselves in the form of Independents, Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, and People Before Profit.

This reality lies behind the call of Labour’s national organising committee to recommend seven candidates being run across the city wards - one in Galway City West and three each in Galway City Central and Galway City West.

Running three in two of the wards appears foolhardy in that it risks splitting the vote. Alternatively, it could prove an effective means of soaking up as much Labour votes as possible to ensure at least one of the three candidates is elected.

Each of the three city wards has a quota of 14.3 per cent and recent polls show the Labour vote stabilising at between nine and 12 per cent. A mixture of the core Labour vote; the party’s strong ability to take transfers; and the fact many of its candidates have an appeal beyond the party itself, are cited within the party as reasons to hope it can have a good result in May.

Sitting councillors Billy Cameron and Colette Connolly will be standing again in Galway City Central and be joined by John McDonagh, chair of the Shantalla Residents Association. That Cllr Connolly and Mr McDonagh live close to each other has raised eyebrows. Both will be “pulling from the same pot” according to one party insider, and with Fianna Fáil’s Nicola Deacy, from around the same area also standing, the three candidates will effectively be operating within the same core territory.

Sinn Féin has yet to find a candidate here but Labour is privately worried that if it does, that candidate could command a large share of the left vote - all this in a ward already shaping up to be among the most congested and competitive in the city.

The wisdom of running three (including two neighbours ) in GCC remains to be seen, although the fact that much of Cllr Tom Costello’s heartland was transferred to GCC under the boundary revisions will give some comfort to the party. It also shows why Labour need to run three in Galway City East.

Cllr Costello needs sweepers to bolster his vote and provide him with transfers. Cllr Nuala Nolan in the last election only received 174, so Ballybane’s Monica Coughlan, is set to be added to the ticket and ensure the party has a good geographical spread in the ward.

Ms Coughlan’s work with the Monivea Park Residents Association, St James GAA Club, Mervue United Football Club, the Galway Rape Crisis Centre, and the Simon Community, will not do her profile or name recognition any harm.

By contrast, Cllr Niall McNelis will be the party’s sole candidate in Galway City West. The majority of the left vote will go to Independent Catherine Connolly, but Cllr McNelis appeal extendes to middle-ground and centre-right voters, and he can be judged to be in a strong position to attract votes from across the board that should see him retain his seat.

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