Wednesday 17 July 2019

Philip Ryan: 'TDs should heed warnings from the local elections'

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD arrives at the counts in the RDS. SF TDs, especially those based in Dublin, will be doing some soul searching in the aftermath of the local election drubbing the party received. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD arrives at the counts in the RDS. SF TDs, especially those based in Dublin, will be doing some soul searching in the aftermath of the local election drubbing the party received. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

By now, the vast majority of votes have been counted in the local elections. The winners are celebrating and the losers are nursing their electoral wounds.

The coming days will see party strategists and number crunchers pore over the results to establish where the fault lines lie ahead of the next election. The overarching national results will be put to the side and the minutiae of each ballot cast will be reviewed.

Local elections serve as a bellwether for general elections and results mean as much, if not more, to TDs as they do to councillors.

Sinn Féin TDs, especially those based in Dublin, will be doing some soul-searching in the aftermath of the local election drubbing the party received. It can only really take comfort from its performance in Waterford, where David Cullinane is based, and Donegal, which is Pearse Doherty's constituency. Every other TD should be concerned about keeping their seat.

Fianna Fáil had a good day at the polls on Friday but there were a few warning signs for the party in certain areas of the country. Take Wicklow for example where, in Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly's heartland of Greystones, the party only won a single seat despite running three. One of those candidates to lose out was Mr Donnelly's own parliamentary assistant Elaine Willis.

Even more worrying for the TD was the vote secured by his former Social Democrats colleague Jennifer Whitmore, who topped the poll in the electoral area.

Over in Cavan, Fianna Fáil's arts spokesperson Niamh Smyth will have noted with some apprehension the vote of former party member Sarah O'Reilly, who topped the poll in the Bailieborough-Cootehill area for Aontú.

The two women were once close political allies but Ms O'Reilly's defection to Peadar Tóibín's party could set up a general election showdown.

There were also significant results for Fine Gael, especially in the Dublin North West constituency. Fine Gael TD Noel Rock knew he was in a battle to save his Dáil seat after changes to electoral boundaries saw him lose key areas.

And he will not be heartened by the poll-topping result of his Fianna Fáil constituency rival Paul McAuliffe, who secured 2,300 first preference votes in the key Ballymun-Finglas electoral battleground.

Minister of State Brendan Griffin will also be concerned to see Fine Gael lose councillors in his native Kerry, which was one the very few councils where the party lost seats.

It is unlikely to cost Mr Griffin his seat in the next election as he is the only Fine Gael TD for the entire county. However, it does not bode well for his chance of bringing in a running mate.

Transport Minister and de-facto Independent Alliance leader Shane Ross will also be questioning his political strategy after losing two key allies on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Councillor Kevin Daly and Seamus O'Neill both lost their seats. Mr Daly is best known for driving a car with a Santa Claus sleigh on the roof, promoting himself and Mr Ross.

Irish Independent

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