A number of the Independent candidates running in the upcoming Local Elections believe voters are disillusioned with what the traditional parties are offering and a swing towards the non-party aligned is on the cards.
Councillor Michael Kilcoyne certainly feels this is the case. Back in 2009, he proved there is an appetite in Castlebar for an independent voice when he topped the poll with a massive 2,330 first preference votes.
He believes the Independent candidates (16 in all ) could be even more appealing to voters in 2014.
There are six outgoing Independent councillors in the form of Frank Durcan and Michael Kilcoyne in Castlebar; Richard Finn in Claremorris; Michael Holmes in Mulranny; Gerry Ginty in Ballina and Seamus Weir in Knockmore (who was elected to Fine Gael but left the party on an anti-pylon stance ).
Councillor Kilcoyne believes at least two, possibly three, more Independents will be elected to Mayo County Council at the end of the month.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were seven or eight Independents in the next council,” he predicted. “I would expect Fine Gael’s reprentation to drop substantially. I don’t expect Fine Gael to get any more than 10 to 11 seats at best. Sinn Féin will have three and the balance will be Fianna Fáil.
“The Independents will hold the balance of power in the next council...unless Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael decide to join together.”
Donal Geraghty, a first-time candidate in the Castlebar area, also expects the Independents to gain strongly.
“The Independents will definitely do well,” he stated. “There’s no doubt about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to get in - it’s my first time out, but I do think people will vote independent because they are sick of everyone else. The voters have no other option. Maybe Sinn Féin will do a bit better...they probably will...but I believe Independents will do better than all of the parties.”
Mr Geraghty said it was his own disillusionment with what was on offer that prompted him to put his name on the ballot paper. “I have no faith in political parties whatsoever. I was sick of people criticising what was there without doing anything about it so I said I’d put my name on the ballot.
“I’d like to make a difference. Maybe bring back a bit of transparency.”
Former Fine Gael councillor Seamus Weir has taken the independent road under very different circumstances.
He has been the Knockmore representative on Mayo County Council for 15 years and parted ways with his party over the Eirgrid/anti-pylon campaign in the Moy Valley.
“I’m running a different campaign now because I’m running on a particular issue,” said Cllr Weir.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m standing up for the people in my own locality on a serious local issue.”
However, running his campaign alone, without a party behind him, has some challenges.
“Of course it is much harder,” said Cllr Weir. “You feel alone. When you go out there and you’re totally independent and you don’t have the strength of the party behind you. So I have to get up there well with the first preference votes. No doubt about it. It’s very tough. But at the same time I’m comfortable because I feel strongly enough about what I’m doing that it’s the right thing to do for my area.
“That’s my stance at the door. I’m still the local councillor. I have been for 15 years and I have a good record.”