With three weeks to go to polling, there is much to play for across each of the three Galway city electoral wards. Poster campaigns are now in full flow and candidates are falling over each other for the affections of voters on the doorsteps.
Many questions will be answered over the coming weeks: Will Labour councillors bear the backlash from voters for the party’s role in the current Government? Will people turn to the Independent candidates to voice their anger? Will the Fianna Fáil revival materialise?
This week, Insider looks at the Galway City West which takes in Salthill, Knocknacarra, Claddagh, and Rahoon.
At present, there are 10 known candidates declared which represents one of the smaller fields of the three electoral wards across the city. The size of the field may have a bearing on how the votes transfer, which should go along party lines primarily, but also along local geographical lines, particularlyin Knocknacarra.
There has been much speculation as to what the final make-up of the ward will be, but with 22 days to go, it is all to play for and these weeks are crucial in garnering those final votes that can make the crucial difference. With the addition of the sixth seat to the ward, this also presents a potential opportunity for a new candidate.
FG is running two candidates here, Pearce Flannery and councillor Michelle Murphy, who took up Hildegarde Naughton’s seat on in City Hall when the latter was promoted to the Seanad in 2013.
Both have made solid starts to the campaign, with very strong poster coverage across the ward and are both actively canvassing. It is understood FG locally believes there is realistically only one seat on offer for it and this is contributing to much tension between the Flannery and Murphy camps.
It is expected that Flannery, who is originally from Salthill, will secure the Fine Gael seat in the area comfortably with Murphy’stransfers bringing him over the line on the day.
FF is also running two candidates in the form of sitting councillor Peter Keane and David Burke. Cllr Keane, who upset all the odds in 2009 to get elected, has run a low profile campaign to date but has a proven ability to get the vote out. The expected tension between him and his running mate, Burke, has not yet materialised and local activists are confident both men can secure two seats in the Ward - a feat which FF has not achieved here before.
The final three weeks of the campaign will be crucial to both candidates. They are expected to secure one seat in the ward and be fighting for a second on the last count.
Labour is running only one candidate in sitting councillor Niall McNelis. This is probably one of the areas in Galway city where the party activists will be confident of securing their existing seat.
In 2009, the Michael D machine got behind McNelis and, like Peter Keane, produced a surprise result on the day. Five years on, Cllr McNelis will be going into this election on his own record and will be expected to be returned on the day, although he will remain concerned about attacks from the other left wing parties, such as Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance, which have singled out Labour for particular attention.
Galway City West has traditionally been a stronghold for the Independent vote but it remains to be seen what this has delivered in the ward and local voters are said to be disappointed with the lack of basic amenities for the area as a result.
Catherine Connolly, the former Labour and now Independent councillor, has really grown in strength since 2009, with her strong performance in the 2011 General Election and with her anti- establishment platform. It is expected that she will top the poll with her Claddagh base delivering.
Donal Lyons, the ‘King of Knocknacarra’ will run Cllr Connolly close to top the poll and is said to be anxious to retain his position as the poll topper in the area. Cllr Lyons will be concerned over the recent controversy over his role as chair of the board of Lesiureland in the ongoing closure of the facility, but any erosion into his vote as a result of this issue is not expected to materialise.
Late entrant into the race, Tom Roddy, is going on a mental health platform, but any serious challenge is not expected to materialise.
Sinn Féin is running local teacher Cathal Ó Conchúir and he has been getting much support from his Party HQ and the SF hierarchy, and Mr Ó Conchúir has a respected pedigree within the party. His local canvassing team are predominantly made up of the local college members from across the country and are said to have already canvassed the entire Salthill and Knocknacarra areas.
Sinn Fein will be hopeful it can improve on the 2009 result of 171 votes for Tom Hanly in an area which would not traditionally support the party.
Tommy Holohan, originally from Claddagh andlivingin Knocknacarra, is running for the Anti-Austerity Alliance and has been quick out of the traps with his posters. Mr Holohan will be trying to tap into anti-Government feeling, and has placed particular emphasis on attacking Labour’s role in government.
In normal election years, Mr Holohan and his party would automatically be written off, but politics is not the same as before and he is expected to be a lot of closer than expected.
Insiderexpects Catherine Connolly and Donal Lyons to battle it out for ‘top of the poll’ and both will continue to exert their dominance in the ward.
In the next pack of three seats, Fine Gael’s Pearce Flannery will be elected along with Labour’s Niall McNelis and one of the Fianna Fáil candidates.
The final seat will be a dog fight (and be very much down to the number of first preference votes secured on the first count ) between Fianna Fáil’s Peter Keane or David Burke, Sinn Fein’s Cathal Ó Conchúir or the AAA’s Tommy Holohan.