South Mayo battle for half a dozen seats

Local Elections 2019: Claremorris Local Electoral Area Preview

Pictured at the Claremorris Community Radio (CCR) election debate in Claremorris Town Hall, Back row (l-r): Pat Keane, (CCR); Cllr Patsy O'Brien, Paul Lawless, and Cllr Damien Ryan, Dolores Keaveney, Michael Burke, and Anthony McNicholas, (CCR) and Cllr Tom Connolly. Front (l-r): Pat O'Rourke (Debate chairman) Margaret Sheehan, and Natasha Warde, Sandra Donnellan and Bridie Sheeran (CCR). Missing from photo was Cllr Richard Finn.  Photo: Michael Donnelly

Pictured at the Claremorris Community Radio (CCR) election debate in Claremorris Town Hall, Back row (l-r): Pat Keane, (CCR); Cllr Patsy O'Brien, Paul Lawless, and Cllr Damien Ryan, Dolores Keaveney, Michael Burke, and Anthony McNicholas, (CCR) and Cllr Tom Connolly. Front (l-r): Pat O'Rourke (Debate chairman) Margaret Sheehan, and Natasha Warde, Sandra Donnellan and Bridie Sheeran (CCR). Missing from photo was Cllr Richard Finn. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Claremorris has seen a boundary change like the rest of the local areas for today's election with the north eastern part of of the constituency moving into the Swinford area, and long with it, Sinn Fein councillor Gerry Murray, who took 1,971 first preferences and was elected on the first count five years ago, as were Cllr Patsy O'Brien and Cllr Richard Finn.

Fine Gael are running a four candidate strategy, with three sitting councillors, Cllr Patsy O'Brien, Cllr John Cribben and Cllr Tom Connolly - they also added former councillor Michael Burke to the ticket late on as they look to take four of the six seats - a difficult but not impossible task. O'Brien was the poll topper last tim,e taking 2,347 and comfortably passing the quota on the first count by 404 votes while Cribben was elected passing the quota on the sixth count and Connolly took his seat also on the sixth count, without making the quota; while Burke lost the seat he held going into that election, being the eighth placed finisher.

It will take a big vote management job by the party to take the four seats they are aiming for. All have very distinct areas with Connolly based in Claremorris, Cribben in Ballyhaunis, O'Brien in the rural area around Hollymount and Robeen, and Burke in Ballinrobe - how they manage any surplus that O'Brien might have is going to be key to their plans.

Fianna Fáil are running a two candidate strategy and have just one sitting councillor in the area, the lowest they got in any of the electoral areas in 2014. Ballinrobe based Cllr Damien Ryan has been their standard bearer for a number of years now and will be expected to retain his seat again this time. His running mate, Michael Carty, won a seat in 2004 in the Claremorris area, but lost his seat in the 2009 local elections and did not contest five years ago, but he is back for the party and will be looking to make a strong dent from his Knock base. However, with some of his heartland in Tooreen and Aghamore now moving into the Swinford area, it could be a tough task for the returning candidate, but Fianna Fáil will be confident there is a second seat for them here.

The other sitting councillor going before the people again is Claremorris based independent Cllr Richard Finn - the Claremorris based councillor is expected to retain his seat this time around. He polled 2,050 number ones last time out just 297 behind poll topper Cllr Patsy O'Brien and was elected on the first count. While Claremorris is his home base, Finn pulls in votes from all areas and having held a number of high profile positions in the council over the past five years as part of the Fianna Fáil and Independent alliance, it positions him well to pull in big numbers again this time around.

Sinn Féin have lost Cllr Gerry Murray to Swinford in the boundary shake up and are running new candidate Natasha Ward. While Murray pulled in big numbers last time around, most of that came from his local territory, which is gone with him into the Swinford area. A good showing will be encouraging for her to put her name forward again in five years time and have a real cut at it.

Another interesting name on the ballot paper is Aontú candidate, Paul Lawless, who has been busy on the campaign trail and, like Ward, this is his first time going on the ballot paper and a credible showing will give him plenty to build on going forward and in terms of staying involved in politics. The final candidate is Green Party Mags Sheehan - the Kilmaine based candidate has run in a number of elections for the party without really making a dent, but with a recent upsurge in climate change interest she could see her vote go up, but it won't make her a player in the final shake up.

Claremorris Local Electoral Area

Seats: 6

Contesting: 10

Sitting councillors: 5

Candidates

Fine Gael: Michael Burke, Tom Connolly, John Cribbin, Patsy O’Brien. Fianna Fáil: Michael Carty, Damien Ryan. Sinn Féin: Natasha Warde. Aontú: Paul Lawless. Green Party: Margaret Sheehan. Independent: Richard Finn.

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