Thursday, May 23, 2019

CAN Sinn Féin hold its seat? Can Fine Gael win three seats? Can Fianna Fáil maintain its current three? Or can a new candidate emerge?

These are the burning questions facing the new-look seven-seat Carlow Municipal District, as Carlow town’s electorate goes to the polls on Friday. The electoral area, which takes in the urban Carlow town zone as well as its hinterland, including Palatine, Bennekerry, Ballinacarrig and Oak Park, has been reduced in geographical size following a boundary review last year. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of elected members from ten to seven.

There are 12 candidates on the ballot paper, all vying for those seven seats.

On the ticket for Fine Gael is cllr Fergal Browne, the party’s only sitting member in this area. He is joined by former councillors Tom O’Neill and Wayne Fennell, who both lost their seats in the 2014 local election, in what was a huge disappointment for the party.

Fine Gael is very hopeful of a reversal this time around, with a strong push very much on to elect all three of its candidates.

Fianna Fáil pulled off a very impressive result in the Carlow Municipal District in 2014, with all of its candidates winning seats on Carlow County Council. The party has three sitting councillors on the ticket this time – Fintan Phelan, Andrea Dalton and Ken Murnane. Cllrs Dalton and Murnane were both co-opted to Carlow County Council during the current term, so Friday’s election will be their first venture before the electorate.

Confidence is high within Fianna Fáil that it can once again enjoy a clean sweep in this municipal district on 24 May.

Traditionally, Labour always held a seat in Carlow town, but sadly for the party that all changed in 2014. This time out, its candidate Kevin Byrne has put in a considerable effort to regain that seat and is hopeful his hard work will pay off.

Probably one of the most fascinating battles in this district is the tussle between Sinn Féin and its former councillor John Cassin, who’s now running as an Independent. In 2014, Sinn Féin became the story of Co Carlow’s local elections, winning an unprecedented three seats on the council. In the Carlow area, it took two seats out of ten, a phenomenal breakthrough for a party very much on the up.

However, an internal dispute surrounding Sinn Féin’s strategy in Carlow town for this upcoming election led to cllr Cassin leaving the party. Sinn Féin subsequently chose party member Ciarán Dooley to run, and he’s hopeful that Sinn Féin can maintain its Carlow town seat – this time with his name on it.

Can cllr Cassin, running as an Independent, command the same impressive vote he secured last time around? He is certainly hoping to prove that.

High-profile People Before Profit candidate Adrienne Wallace is pushing hard to break the status quo, running in both Carlow Municipal District for the local elections and in the southern constituency for the European elections. A former general election candidate, Ms Wallace has commanded attention over the past few years. If that appeal can be transferred into votes come polling day, she will be an interesting one to watch.

Another interesting addition to the ticket is Mary Hande, running for Aontú, Ireland’s newest political party. The 2019 local elections is the first big test for Aontú and Ms Hande will be hoping that in Carlow perhaps the party can claim one of its first scalps.

A late addition to the district’s political landscape is Bernard Jennings, running as an Independent. His curious approach to electioneering, including not having his photograph on the ballot paper, is certainly different, but whether it’s one the electorate will love or loathe remains to be seen.

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By Suzanne Pender
Contact Newsdesk: +353 59 9170100

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