Friday 15 December 2017

Over twice as many candidates than seats in Dundalk-Carlingford contest

WITH just over four weeks to go before voters in Dundalk go to the polls to elect their new county councillors, the battle for Dundalk-Carlingford is shaping up to be a political bloodbath with 13 people contesting just six seats.

The three main parties – Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail – are fielding a trio of candidates each in this constituency, while there are three independents already declared and one from the Green Party.

There may be more from smaller parties or independents putting their names down before the vote takes place on May 23.

There is simply no guarantees in this very crowded arena, and no dead certs this time around. Voters in the North of this constituency are spoiled for choice if they want to vote for 'homegrown' candidates, with six candidates living beyond the Ballymac roundabout.

Voters also have their pick of the under-35s with six younger people running.

The longest serving county councillor is Fianna Fail's Peter Savage. Cllr. Savage, political legend has it, doesn't canvas, but his skills in helping people on a one-to-one level is expected to get him over the line.

Another stalwart is Sinn Fein's Jim Loughran from Ravensdale who has also worked hard over the past five years, particularly in the areas of crime prevention and rural development.

His colleague, elected councillor Edel Corrigan is one of only two women running (with independent Sylwia Jakubas). She has been particularly vocal on youth and women's issues.

Conor Keelan is also a current Fianna Fail councillor, along with Mark Dearey, who is also running for the European Parliament for the Green Party.

And last week, independent councillor Jim Ryan announced he is to seek another term in Dundalk-Carlingford. A long-time servant, Ryan commands a significant personal following, especially in Dundalk.

Fine Gael's Martin Murnaghan is one of a number of councillors who were co-opted onto the local authority to replace party colleagues who went to the Seanad. His running mates are two newcomers to the political arena – GAA star Colin Goss, and John McGahon whose political pedigree is unquestioned.

Goss and Murnaghan are in the Northern part of the constituency, while McGahon is based in the Dundalk part. But all is not well in Fine Gael with the announcement earlier this month that the party's only elected rep on Dundalk Town Council, Eamon O'Boyle, is to stand in this constituency – and Dundalk South – as an independent after he was not selected by the party to run.

Also new to the political game are Fianna Fail's Sean Kelly and Sinn Fein's JJ Quigley, who, like Goss, is also a former member of the Louth panel.

Polish-born Sylwia Jakubas lives in Carlingford and is one of the founders of the successful Polish school in Dundalk.

With just six seats up for grabs, vote management will be the key to this battle. The retirement of Sinn Fein's Harry Todd will free up significant votes for Quigley, while the fact that Fianna Fail's Sean Bellew is not running again should boost votes for Kelly and Keelan.

Both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein will be out to show an increase in their votes, while Fine Gael will be hoping that the traditional 'kicking' given to government parties in mid-term elections doesn't materialise for them here.

The Argus

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