Wednesday 19 June 2019

Thirty five candidates fighting for 18 seats

Seven parties with candidates in the field along with independents across three areas

Paul Deering

A total of 35 candidates will contest the Local Elections on May 24th across three electoral areas in the county.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael lead the way in terms of the numbers of candidates being fielded with nine apiece followed by Sinn Féin with three with two for Solidarity People Before Profit Party and one each for the Labour Party, Green Party and Renua Ireland.

There is a total of nine non party or independent candidates standing including the county's longest serving councillor, Declan Bree who was first elected in 1974 to the County Council and former Sligo Borough Council. 

On paper each candidate stands a 50/50 chance of being elected but of course this doesn't take into account party loyalty and swings such as that against the party in government.

Local Elections tend to see many independent candidates elected as the electorate like to give the Government parties a bloody nose. How this will work out in this month's local elections remains to be seen. While Fine Gael are in power, it is propped by with a supply and confidence agreement by Fianna Fáil which, the longer it goes on, has caused concern amongst the aprty faithful which would like to see the party take a more robust line with the Government.

Of note too is that while there are candidates running in Sligo who describe themselves as non party they are aligned to the Independent Alliance which is also a grouping which sits at the cabinet table and whose votes keep the Government from falling. 

There are some fascinating scenarios to be played out in each of the three electoral areas of Sligo/Strandhill (6 seats), Ballymote-Tubbercurry (7 seats) and Sligo-Drumcliff (5 seats).

There are ongoing councillors facing the electorate for the first time due to having been co-opted during the lifetime of the present council, Cllr Gino O'Boyle (Sligo-Strandhill) and Cllr Keith Henry (Ballymote-Tubbercurry).

Cllr Chris MacManus also falls into the category of being a co-opted councillor seeking re-election but he has previous experience of being a councillor on the Borough Council before taking his father Sean's seat in 2017 following his retirement. Since the previous elections in 2014 there were the passing of two councillors, Seamus O'Boyle in 2015 whose son, Gino was co-opted to fill the vacancy while long serving councillor Margaret Gormley died last month. 

No co-option took place with regard to the filling of Margaret's seat but her nephew Willie is contesting the election and is hoping to continue the long tradition of a councillor in the Gormley name which began as far back as 1942, when Margaret's late father, Willie was first elected to the Council. Margaret was co-opted onto the Council in 1980 and successfully contested every subsequent election. 

The election also sees the return to the political arena of former councillors who lost their seats in 2014. These include Jim McGarry who previously held seats as a Fine Gael and Labour councillor but who is now standing as an independent. Also seeking to win back a seat is Gerard Mullaney on the Fine Gael ticket. 

One outgoing councillor, Joe Queenan is seeking re-election as a non party candidate having won his seat in 2014 for Fianna Fáil. He resigned from the party in December 2015 following an RTE Primetime programme in which he was filmed offering to act as an intermediary for a wind farm company in return for an investment in a business he was planning. A SIPO investigation later found against him in regard to three of the four allegations he faced.

On the gound it is said Cllr Queenan has remained close to Fianna Fáil and it was interesting that the party opted against running a candidate against him in the West Sligo area.

There's speculation he may well be welcomed back into the party if he is re-elected. Interesting to note too that two candidates have experience of working alongside Dáil TD's, Blaine Gaffney with Tony McLoughlin TD and Thomas Walsh with John Perry TD. One candidate in the field has been selected already to contest the next General Election, Cllr Sinead Maguire of Fine Gael. 

Sligo's voters will elect 18 councillors like it did in 2014 but there are changes to the electoral areas. In 2014, there was significant changes following the scrapping of Sligo Borough Council and the introduction of municipal districts. In 2014 there was an election of 18 councillors to Sligo County Council with this body taking its councillors from two municipal districts of ten (Sligo) and Ballymote/Tubbercurry (8). These two districts also met separate to the County Council. 

Now, the Ballymote/Tubbercurry Municipal District has been reduced by one seat to seven.and there are three electoral areas instead of the previous two. The county is now divided into Ballymote-Tobercurry with 7 seats, Sligo-Strandhill with 6 seats and Sligo-Drumcliff with 5 seats, making up the 18 councillors on the County Council.

There is no change to the Municipal Districts which means the areas are constituted as follows: Sligo Municipal Borough District - comprising Sligo -Drumcliff and Sligo -Strandhill local electoral areas. The Ballymote-Tobercurry Municipal District is recommended to comprise the Ballymote-Tobercurry local electoral area.

Sligo Champion