GALWAY is throwing a party like only it can this week and local election candidates are capitalising on the good mood across town hosting the Volvo Ocean Race.
Pádraig Conneely “the maverick mayor” joined in group photos with sailors and revellers alike, packed outside pubs on the lively party hub of Quay Street late on Sunday night.
Wearing his mayoral chain, but getting a reception more suited to a local sports star, the Fine Gael head of Galway City Council had plenty of reason to celebrate.
Just an hour earlier at the opening ceremony of “the Volvo” Taoiseach Brian Cowen was given an uncharacteristic booing from the otherwise good-mood crowd of 10,000 gathered at the docks for the big show.
As Hector the MC told Mr Cowen that what he needed was “the liathróidí” of the men who had sailed across the Atlantic to the City of the Tribes, the crowd let out a huge roar.
This hostility shows that while problems such as dirty drinking water, bad planning and poor traffic management are on the minds of many Galway voters, they are more tuned in to the national mood than local issues.
Fianna Fáil lost nine seats in Galway in 2004 and has just three out of 15 seats on the city council.
Candidates are under a “voluntary ban” from putting up election posters because of the Ocean Race.
This will suit many of the Fianna Fáil candidates.
Prominent members recently ran newspaper ads of themselves in which the party logo was left out.
Galway was the PDs’ stronghold and the party had six councillors between the city and county councils before it wound up.
This meant the city council had the same number of PDs as Fine Gael (3) and Fianna Fáil (3) councillors. All of those former PDs – Terry O’Flaherty, Declan McDonnell and Donal Lyons – are running as independents and have a strong chance of winning.
Along with former labour mayor and now independent Cllr Catherine Connolly, the share of independents on the city council, currently five, is likely to remain high.
Green Party Cllr Niall O Brolcháin is running in the extremely competitive west ward which has 12 candidates, including four sitting councillors and one previous one, for four seats.
Mayor Conneely and his Fine Gael colleague John Mulholland look like they will bring two more to dominate the council.
Independents and former PDs are also a strong feature of Galway County Council which has 30 seats.
Minister Eamon O Cúiv has been active in campaigning in Connemara where the party is dominant with four of the current 10 seats compared to Fine Gael’s one. It might be over-optimistic to say it will not lose a seat but it’s likely to hold the majority. Sinn Féin, which has one seat on Galway County Council, might take another.
The east side of Galway is more Fine Gael country.
The county council had three PDs, two of which (Jim Cuddy and Thomas Welby) will run as independents. Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher has followed his associate into Fine Gael which could increase the party’s seats by at least one.
With Labour candidates in just two of the ward areas it is unlikely to increase its seat number of one.
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