There’s no area in Mayo that can be easily called as to where the seats will be divided out in next week’s local elections, but the new West Mayo area is probably the hardest. The re-drawing of the boundaries last year has seen the old Westport and Belmullet areas thrown together into one giant swathe of land that stretches right from the northern tip of the county right down the west coast to the Galway border. Currently there are eight councillors sitting in the two areas and this time out there are only seven seats up for grabs in the new giant district.
Of the current eight sitting councillors, five are running again; the Fine Gael trio of Johnny O’Malley, Gerry Coyle, and Austin Francis O’Malley, Sinn Fe?in’s Rose Conway-Walsh, and independent Michael Holmes. The three stepping aside are Fine Gael’s Peter Flynn, and Fianna Fa?il duo Margaret Adams and Miche?al McNamara. The five sitting councillors are joined by 12 more candidates looking for the nod, with Fianna Fa?il running six more: current Westport town councillor Brendan Mulroy, Joan Geraghty, Tommy Joe Jennings, Paul McNamara, Sean Carey and Frank Leneghan. Fine Gael have Westport Town Councillor Teresa McGuire and Breege Grealis also on their ticket, while Green Party candidate Caroline Fitzgerald along with independents Christy Hyland (a current Westport town councillor and a former Fine Gael member ), Joe Lavelle and Michael O’Donnell complete the ballot paper.
The current eight sitting councillors in the area comprise two in the Erris area, two in the Achill/Mulranny area, two in Westport town area and two south of the Westport town area. With one seat less the division of seats across the area will be of great interest to those in the various localities. There are concerns out there that some of the more rural areas will struggle to hold on to their councillors with the two large urban areas of Westport along with the Belmullet/Bangor areas which are the big population centres, possibly squeezing out the middle third of the new constituency.
With just seven seats up for grabs on a simple north and south spilt of the district, it’s expected that there will be a four-three split on where the seats go, but in which direction that split will be one of the more interesting outcomes on the count day. The abolishment of Westport Town Council is something that has been much mourned in the town, as the council was seen as one that worked very well together and was very progressive in promoting the town and its brand. There are five candidates from the town running, Hyland, Geraghty, Mulroy, Lavelle, and McGuire, but none of them is a current sitting county councillor, with both Peter Flynn and Margaret Adams opting to not run this time. Can the town hold on to the two councillors it currently has or will there be room for only one councillor from the town? Depending on the voting patterns on the day, it will be another area of serious interest. Transfers from the Westport town candidates to each other will be important when this comes down for decision.
The old Belmullet area saw one of the greatest election count battles of all time back in 1999, when Frank Leneghan saw off current councillor Michael Holmes, by just a single vote to take a seat on a night of high drama in the count centre. While neither man would like to see things come that close again this time around, the final few seats will be very tough fought affairs in this constituency, as you would have to expect.
Fine Gael: Johnny O’Malley, Austin-Francis O’Malley, Gerry Coyle, Breege Grealis, Tereasa McGuire.
Fianna Fa?il: Sean Carey, Frank Leneghan, Joan Geraghty, Paul McNamara, Brendan Mulroy, Tommy Joe Jennings.
Sinn Fe?in: Rose Conway- Walsh.
Green: Caroline Fitzgerald.
Independent: Christy Hyland, Michael O’Donnell, Joe Lavelle, Michael Holmes.