Fine Gael (2), Sinn Fein (1), Independent (1).
Published 19/01/2016 | 16:14
WATERFORD’s election wars offer plenty of talking points.
On their worst day in 2011, Fianna Fáil were still only 900 votes off a seat in the final count. That should suggest a return this time out but can their candidate, relatively unknown first-time councillor, Mary Butler, win through?
Sinn Féin’s Senator David Cullinane also hopes it will be fourth time lucky for him. Who of the sitting quartet will lose out?
Recent and longer-term history suggests Labour’s Ciara Conway is very vulnerable. Like many other centres Labour had a terrible local election here in May 2014 and were reduced to just one councillor.
Independent TD John Halligan, who took the last seat in 2011 without a quota, will consolidate his position. He was the surprise packet of 2011 and has since joined Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance which also has Michael Fitzmaurice, and Finian McGrath in a curious mix of left and right. Halligan has impressed at Leinster House and remained very active locally.
Last time many people had been tipping David Cullinane of Sinn Féin who disappointed. He was only fractionally behind TDs Halligan and Conway on the first count and the party hopes his work as a councillor since 2004 and their increased national vote will help him home this time.
Some within Fianna Fáil argue that the party will struggle to get their candidate elected. Cllr Mary Butler is an enthusiastic campaigner but her relative inexperience and not being based in the main population centre of Waterford city are disadvantages.
Renua Ireland have one of their stronger candidates here in Ms Mailo Power, a popular Waterford hotelier. She has the potential to garner a decent vote and the destination of her transfers, expected to be shared between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will be watched with interest.
Labour has frequently struggled in Waterford and though Ciara Conway, Waterford’s first woman TD in almost 60 years, has impressed at Leinster House, things look bleak. She faces a daunting task with a lot of competition from Sinn Féin, John Halligan and others, and her party’s stock remains very low nationally.
The Green Party field Grace O’Sullivan, a former crew member of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, who campaigned impressively in the May 2014 European elections. People Before Profit will field Una Dunphy a teacher from Tramore who is current president of the Waterford Trades Union Council.
The maverick Fine Gael TD, John Deasy is expected to head poll as he did last time. Based in Dungarvan, he has a huge personal following building on a base started by his father Austin Deasy a former Agriculture Minister.
But Fine Gael’s Junior Housing Minister and former Waterford hurler, Paudie Coffey, has big fight on his hands. He had a strong vote last time and took the second seat on the ninth count.
In the end it may all come down to a three-way fight between Paudie Coffey, and the Fianna Fáil candidate, Cllr Mary Butler and Ciara Conway for the final seat. Much depends on the strength of the campaign put in for Coffey.
It will be tight but Coffey should hold on.