With four councillors from both county and town councils across the county running in the General Election today, the possibility exists that a vacancy will occur in one of the local authorities.
The four councillors running are, for Sinn Féin, Castlebar town councillor Therese Ruane, and county councillor Rose Conway Walsh; for Fine Gael, Ballina town councillor and county councillor Michelle Mulherin; and Independent town councillor and county councillor Michael Kilcoyne. While the standard procedure for filling the vacancy sees the party which the departing councillor elected represented filling the seat with a nominee of their choice, the filling of the vacancy is a trickier act.
In Castlebar Town Council, according to the standing orders of the council, if Cllr Kilcoyne is elected, the nominee to fill his seat will have to get approval with six of the current members voting in favour of the nominee. If Cllr Kilcoyne is elected this will leave only eight councillors sitting on the council when the nomination to co-opt is put forward, so three quarters of the town council will have to approve the nominee. Currently Fine Gael have four councillors, Cllr Eugene McCormack, Cllr Brendan Heneghan, Cllr Noreen Heston, and current Mayor Cllr Ger Deere. There is one Sinn Féin member, Cllr Therese Ruane, who herself is running, one Fianna Fáil councillor, Blackie Gavin, one Labour councillor, Harry Barrett and one Independent councillor, Frank Durcan, with no party controlling the required number of votes to shoehorn their own candidate of choice, but holding more than enough seats to block the co-option of a proposed member.
When it comes to the county council seat, if Cllr Kilcoyne is elected to the Dáil any nominee of his to fill his seat will have to receive at least 20 of the votes of the 31 councillors in the council. Currently Fine Gael have 17 of the 31 council seats, just three short of forcing through their own candidate if they wished, however they have more than enough seats to block any nomination that they do not like if an Independent’s seat becomes vacant.