Ballina promises to be a battle to the end

Local Elections 2019: Ballina Local Electoral Area Preview

Thumbs up: Fianna Fail's Cllr Annie May Reape gives the thumbs up after winning her seat in the Ballina area five years ago. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Thumbs up: Fianna Fail's Cllr Annie May Reape gives the thumbs up after winning her seat in the Ballina area five years ago. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Ballina has seen a large chunk of its current area hived off and it is probably for the best, with the towns of Foxford and Swinford now in the Swinford Electoral Area following the latest boundary commission report.

With that change - two councillors currently sitting in the Ballina area - Fianna Fail's Cllr Michael Smyth and Fine Gael's Cllr Neil Cruise - are heading for pastures new. Also departing the scene is Cllr Gerry Ginty, who is retiring after a long career in both the town and county councils - although the retiring councillor did admit he regretted his decision not to run again at his final meeting.

Getting back to the task at hand, there are now six seats in the Ballina area and five sitting councillors are looking to retain their spots. They are: Fianna Fail duo Cllr Annie May Reape and Cllr Michael Loftus, Fine Gael pair Cllr John O'Hara and Cllr Jarlath Munnelly and Independent Cllr Seamus Weir.

Last time out one of the things that jumped out straight from the results was that only two Ballina town based candidates were returned by the people - Cllrs Ginty and Reape - with councillors being elected from Killala, Swinford, Foxford, Knockmore and Bonniconlon. With the recent boundary changes and two of those towns no longer in the area - you will expect to see more representation from the town areas.

Fine Gael's Cllr John O'Hara was the top vote-getter last time around. Picking up 1,612 number ones, he wasn't that far ahead of independent Cllr Seamus Weir, who pulled in 1,589 first preference votes. Next behind them was Cllr Annie Maye Reape who got 1,256, with her now departing party colleague Cllr Michael Smyth coming fourth in the poll. Fine Gael's Jarlath Munnelly and Fianna Fail's Cllr Michael Loftus all polled over 1,000 first preference votes also and similar returns this time should see them all in good stead of holding on to their seats.

If those five all manage to hold on to their seats - it will leave an almighty battle for the sixth and final spot in the council chamber. Sinn Fein's John Sheehan pulled in a very impressive 1,026 number ones at the last outing and finished in front of two councillors, eventually elected on the first count. This time around Michael Regan is flying the flag for the party and if he does anything similar to Sheehan's numbers he will be in with a shout - however with Sheehan pulling a lot from his Swinford base last time and that area no longer in play here, it could be difficult for Regan.

Fianna Fail's Eamonn Moore is back again for his party and he also finished ahead of an eventually elected councillor and will fancy his chances of the breaks going for him this time. If he adds another 100 odd to the 901 he got last time, he really will be in with a shout of getting over the line.

Where the 935 votes won by Cllr Gerry Ginty go, will be key to the outcome. If they fall the way of one of the Ballina town based councillors, as expected, it could be key to them getting elected - but they could equally go to the winds all over the place. Another big vote-getter who missed out last time was independent candidate, Enda Lavelle, who polled a very respectable 980 first preference votes - which actually put in him in front of two councillors eventually elected - both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will be looking for those votes to go the way of their candidates in the Crossmolina area that Lavelle was based in.

Fine Gael are looking to pick up an extra seat and are running Aileen Horan and Kieran Gill - Horan is a Ballina town based candidate and will be looking to improve on the 830 votes Mark Winters got last time and if O'Hara goes big again and has any sort of surplus, she will be hoping it goes her way; while Gill will be looking to take a big chunk of the votes that went to Lavelle last time.

The Social Democrats sole candidate in the county is running in the Ballina area and Tracey Smith, who will be hoping to tap into the big vote in the town, will need to do so if she is to stay in the running. Former town councillor, Willie Nolan, has put his name down on the ballot paper and has been busy on the campaign trail. He was elected to the old town council three terms in a row in 1999, 2004 and 2009 and he will be expecting to take a good vote from those who want to ensure there is an independent voice representing the town, now that Cllr Ginty is retiring. There is another new face on the ballot paper in the shape of Mark Duffy who is running as an independent - Duffy has been busy about the town and working the youth vote on social media in particular - if he gets it out, you never know what can happen.

Ballina Local Electoral Area

Seats: 6

Contesting: 12

Sitting councillors: 5


Fine Gael: Jarlath Munnelly, John O’Hara, Aileen Horkan, Kieran Gill. Fianna Fáil: Annie May Reape, Michael Loftus, Eamon Moore. Sinn Féin: Michael Regan. Social Democrats: Tracey Smith. Independent: Seamus Weir, Mark Duffy, Willie Nolan


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