Tuesday 23 January 2018

Cork set for its first Sinn Fein lord mayor since MacSwiney

WATCHING: Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney at the count centre in Cork. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
WATCHING: Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney at the count centre in Cork. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision


CORK is poised for its first Sinn Fein lord mayor in almost a century after a dramatic Labour Party implosion in the city council elections.

Labour, the second largest party on the council after the 2009 election, could face a total wipeout as its vote share collapsed to 7 per cent.

The party was last night facing the grim prospect of losing all its seven seats, although outgoing lord mayor Cllr Catherine Clancy remains in a dogfight for the final seat in her ward.

She held Labour's only realistic chance of winning a seat.

The results represent an astonishing collapse for the party which, just five years ago, eclipsed Fianna Fail by one seat to become the second-biggest party on the 31-member council after Fine Gael.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney (FG) admitted it had been "a very difficult election for Fine Gael, but an even tougher one for Labour."

Candidate Barry Keane said FG's vote management and candidate strategies helped it retain its position as the largest party in local government.

However, analysts agreed that it was an unmitigated disaster for Labour.

Ciaran Lynch TD (Labour) said the party now had to carefully consider the fallout from the election and its implications for the party in the run-up to the 2016 General Election.

"It has been a very, very tough day . . . but we had expected as much," he told the Sunday Independent.

Sinn Fein is celebrating record results and will win a minimum of six seats but could end up with as many as eight.

Crucially, independents and Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) candidates also did exceptionally well.

Combined with SF, they may now hold the balance of power in Ireland's second-largest urban authority, while FF/FG/Labour face the prospect of not being able to dominate future mayoral elections.

As a result, Cork may now get its first Sinn Fein lord mayor in a century since the days of Terence MacSwiney and Tomas MacCurtain.

Such a prospect hinges on whether SF and independents/AAA officials can agree to operate a voting block.

Both FF and FG acknowledged it represents the most dramatic set of election results in Cork City Council's modern history.

FF leader Micheal Martin saw his party's vote go up. His brother, Sean, a former lord mayor, will be re-elected but his niece, Kate, a nurse and first-time candidate, faces a battle to get elected.

Across the political divide, FG officials were anxiously watching tallies to see if Deirdre Clune, daughter of former Tanaiste and foreign affairs minister, Peter Barry, could prove party strategists correct and take a second seat in the vast Ireland South European Parliament constituency.

Ms Clune, a long-time supporter of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, agonisingly lost her Dail berth in Cork South Central to running mate Jerry Buttimer in the 2011 General Election.

Her political pedigree is evidenced by the fact both her father, Peter, and grandfather, Anthony, served as Fine Gael TDs in Cork.

Sunday Independent

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