ohn Connolly, the long time Fianna Fáil member and former city councillor, is understood to have been approached by Fianna Fail to consider standing in the 2016 General Election.
Although Dep Ó Cuív needs no assistance to retain his seat and take the vast majority of the Connemara vote, FF is determined to regain a second seat in Galway West, particularly with the addition of South Mayo to the constituency and the fact that the second Fine Gael seat is vulnerable.
Alongside this, there is a desire to neuter south Connemara Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, given the party’s rise in the opinion polls and the fact that SF now has councillors strategically based throughout Galway West.
Mr Connolly, a schoolteacher based in the Bearna area, could take votes Sen Ó Clochartaigh may otherwise have received from the coastal areas and western sectors of the city.
However Mr Connolly’s path back to electoral politics is by no means clear as it is also understood approaches have been made to Christina Nic Dhonnacadh, Dep Ó Cuív’s PA, to also consider standing in Connemara. She would serve the same function outlined above for Mr Connolly - but with two advantages.
Not only would she fill the gender quota, but Ms Nic Dhonnacadh’s candidacy would also embarrass SF. It is understood she was once a member of the party and worked in Sen Ó Clochartaigh’s office. Like Sen Ó Clochartaigh, she is also from An Cheathrú Rua and would eat into the SF vote there.
FF HQ is interested in getting one of the three city councillors to run, but Cllr Michael J Crowe’s appetite for general elections, having run in 2007 and 2011, has waned, and Cllr Peter Keane does not seem to be interested. Speculation has long rested on Cllr Ollie Crowe, the most high profile member of the trio, becoming the FF city candidate, a role that looks increasingly likely for him in 2016.
Current opinion polls show FF hovering between 18 and 21 per cent, well short of the 32 per cent needed to take two seats in Galway West. Nonetheless local factors could give Cllr Crowe a chance in Galway city.
At present FF, through Éamon Ó Cuív, and FG will each take seats. Independent Noel Grealish is likely to hold his seat. The left seat will be fought between Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly and Sinn Féin (either Sen Ó Clochartaigh or Cllr Máiréad Farrell ). Although both could be strong enough to take a seat each, in the event neither does, one seat is then left.
Should FG’s Dep Brian Walsh lose his seat and Sen Hildegarde Naughton fail to make an impact, this, plus the political demise of Labour’s Derek Nolan, would allow an opening for Cllr Crowe. He will be mindful though of having to compete with a potentially strong Independent like Cllr James Charity.