The expansion of Cork City’s boundary has resulted in a shake-up of electoral wards. In the first of a five-part series, Kevin O’Neill looks at the runners and riders in the new look Cork City North-East
With six seats up for grabs, Cork City North-East is one of the most open of the new city wards. Five sitting councillors — four from Cork City and one from Cork County — are among the baker’s dozen already confirmed to run, with all five confident of securing a seat.
An interesting development before Christmas saw Sinn Féin’s Stephen Cunningham — the youngest member of Cork City Council — announce that he would not be looking to run again. Mr Cunningham topped the poll in 2014, fending off challenges from some much longer serving members in the area.
For Sinn Féin, it presented a problem but also a possible solution.
With the dissolution of Cork City North-Central, the party was facing a potential issue. It had three potential sitting councillors vying for seats in the new Cork City North-West ward: Thomas Gould, Mick Nugent, and Kenneth Collins, all of whom were firmly based in the city end of the ward.
Mr Cunningham’s decision to step back opened up a natural space for Mr Nugent, originally from Ballyvolane, to move into Cork City North-East. A poll-topper in 2014, Mr Nugent would be confident of repeating the trick, with a strong city base to draw from.
He has been joined on the ticket by newcomer Mandy Hegarty-O’Leary, daughter of former lord mayor councillor Chris O’Leary.
Based on the Glanmire side of the constituency, Ms Hegarty-O’Leary ticks two very important boxes for the party: Geography and gender balance. However, thinking that she is a token candidate would be a grave mistake.
Senior party members think very highly of her abilities, so much so that she was chosen to launch Liadh Ní Riada’s presidential bid last year.
The most obvious opportunity for Ms Hegarty-O’Leary is the seat currently held by Ger Keohane. Now an independent, Mr Keohane is running for a seat on Cork City Council and is a very active and vocal representative for Glanmire.
But when he was elected in 2014, he was a member of Sinn Féin and the party will be hopeful that a strong residual vote backs the party and not the candidate.
Mr Keohane was third over the line in the 2014 election in what was a strong showing for Sinn Féin in the constituency. Interestingly, the other Sinn Féin member elected in what was the Cobh Municipal Area at the time — councillor Kieran McCarthy — has also since left the party and is now an independent representing Cobh.
Fine Gael will also be optimistic of building on its one seat in the area.
Joe Kavanagh was the party’s only successful candidate on the northside of the city in 2014. Mr Kavanagh had been co-opted into Dara Murphy’s seat in 2011 after Mr Murphy was elected to the Dáil and he took the last seat in the 2014 election.
Since then, he has served as deputy lord mayor of Cork, in 2017, and would be viewed as a strong contender to retain his seat.
He has been joined by businesswoman Lorraine O'Neill on the Fine Gael ticket. Ms O'Neill, owner of Cream coffee shop in Glanmire, has previously been involved in the flood campaign in Glanmire. It is her first election campaign but she is very well known in the area already.
Fianna Fáil will also be expecting a strong showing at the end of May.
Like Sinn Féin, the party was faced with a tough call as to where to run its candidates due to the abolition of Cork North-Central.
Between the city local electoral areas of North-Central and North-West, the party has three sitting councillors — Blackpool-based Kenneth O’Flynn and John Sheehan, and former Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald, from Knocknaheeny.
Mr O’Flynn has opted to run in the North-East ward, with the other two now selected to run in Cork North-West. His focus will likely lie largely in the western end of the North-East ward: Blackpool and The Glen, though he has already made forays into other parts of the ward.
He will be joined on the ticket by Tim Brosnan, one of the longest serving members of Cork City Council, having been first elected in 1992. Mr Brosnan is based in Montenotte.
Party activist Martin Dorgan rounds out the three-strong ticket. All three come from the urban end of the constituency in a potentially unbalanced move. The party also has a very city-focused ticket in Cork City North-West, though that is where the bulk of the population is in that district and may not be as risky as in North-East, where Glanmire could have a large say in the final standings.
Workers’ Party councillor Ted Tynan is running again. Mr Tynan was elected to Cork City Council in 2009, though he also served a brief stint in the 1980s.
In 2014, he was just nine votes short of topping the poll, taking 21% of first preferences on the day.
Outside these candidates, the ward represents a very open opportunity.
With just five elected members running in the six-seater, at least one newcomer is guaranteed.
Several of the smaller parties are running candidates, all of whom are based in the city end of the ward.
The Green Party has opted for Oliver Moran.
Unsuccessful in the local election in 2014 and the general election in 2016, Mr Moran will be hoping for a stronger showing this time around. He has remained vocal since the last election, both on local issues in the Montenotte, Mayfield, and Glanmire areas, and city-wide concerns, such as the St Patrick St bus priority measures and pedestrianisation.
The party is optimistic that a renewed public interest in environmental issues and its public standing on matters such as the OPW flood scheme in the city centre will provide a boost. Four candidates ran in 2014, none were elected.
Labour is also hopeful of recovering from its wipeout in 2014 when it lost all seven seats.
In the North-East ward, John Maher is flying the flag. A scout leader and community activist, Mr Maher is from Mayfield.
Carol Brogan will represent Solidarity in the area. It is her first election campaign.
The party is one that could feel the pinch from the redrawn boundaries. In 2014, three candidates ran and were elected — Mick Barry, Marion O’Sullivan, and Lil O’Donnell. Mr Barry has since been elected to Dáil Éireann and was replaced by Fiona Ryan, who is running again in Cork North-West. Ms O’Sullivan is retiring from politics and Ms O’Donnell has since left the party and has yet to confirm whether she will run again.
Ms Brogan could be buoyed by the significant support for Mr Barry in the city area of the constituency, though.
Sinéad Halpin is one of four Social Democrat candidates running in Cork City but the only one on the northside of the river. Originally from Farranree and now living in Mayfield, she is secretary of the North-Central branch of the Social Democrats and is a former CIT students union welfare officer.
Sean O’Sullivan will run as an Independent in Glanmire. He is a former PRO of Glanmire GAA club and is PRO of the Glanmire Ladies Basketball Club. He is also involved in the Glanmire Over 60s.
With six seats up for grabs and such major changes to the constituency, some surprises and changes are inevitable.
In 2014, the City North-East backed one each from Sinn Féin, the Workers’ Party, Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael, with North-Central selecting two from what was then the Anti-Austerity Alliance, now Solidarity, and two from Fianna Fáil, alongside one from Sinn Féin.
But the addition of Glanmire, parts of the city, and a growing population in many areas, it is less clear this far out as to which way the votes will fall.
Glanmire represents a significant opportunity for any candidate in Cork City North-East.
The extension of the Cork City administrative area has put an entirely different complexion on the northside of the River Lee.
The new-look Cork City North-East local electoral area includes parts of the former city north-central ward, which has been dissolved, as well as large parts of the former Cork County Council administrative area.
The population of the entire ward is just over 42,000 people. With six seats, it means the population per councillor is approximately 7,000.
The dividing line between Cork City North-East and Cork City North-West splits Blackpool in two. Starting from Patrick’s Quay, the line runs up Coburg Street and Leitrim Street, and onto Watercourse Road, Thomas David Street, and up to Dublin Hill.
Everything on the eastern side these roads will fall into Cork City North-East. The biggest areas coming into the ward from Cork City North-Central are Ballyvolane and The Glen.
However, the ward will gain far more from the new county areas. The boundary turns west at Dublin Hill, taking in estates in the Kilbarry and Kilcully areas, and the rural areas north as far as Ballynahina.
The boundary line runs north of the River Lee as far as Dunkettle and the Jack Lynch Tunnel, with the M8 acting as the new boundary line with the county, before turning west at the R639, with everything south-west of the road in the ward and everything north-east staying in the county. It will now take in the whole of Glanmire, Riverstown, and Sarsfield Court.
The most significant new area is around Glanmire to the east. Already, it looks set to become a battleground for the candidates with the town itself and the nearby hinterland comprising a population of more than 8,000 people.
With major expansions planned for this in the coming years — including a housing development of more than 600 units which is already under construction — it could be viewed as the key to the entire kingdom for the right candidate.
It is telling that many of those campaigning in the north-east ward have increased their focus on Glanmire issues: a proposed new apartment block in Glanmire has attracted significant attention from many of those that have already announced their intention to run, for example, but so too are issues like Glanmire crime, cycle routes and public transport.
Currently, Glanmire is part of the Cobh-Glanmire municipal area in Cork County Council. It is served by seven elected members, just one of whom is from Glanmire. One other is in the Little Island/Glounthaune part of the municipal district and has opted to run for a seat on Cork County Council, and all the rest are based in the eastern end of the constituency, serving Cobh and Carrigtwohill. As such, it is no real surprise that just one of these has staked their claim to run for a seat on Cork City Council. The candidates are faced with an interesting challenge, though.
In the city end of the ward, tightly knit communities like Mayfield, The Glen and Ballyvolane will be keen to ensure that they don’t become an afterthought for candidates, many of whom will be new to representing the area.
Long-standing issues like housing, dumping and roads are top of the agenda for many residents, some of whom will be frustrated with a relative lack of progress in recent years.
There will also be the rural factor to consider, something which has never been on the table for the city councillors before, though.
The green belt, naturally a dividing line at the edge of the city, has always been under the remit of Cork County Council and was often one of the elements highlighted during the boundary debates as a potential issue for the City Council.
However, it is likely to be viewed as an essential area for growth in the coming years as Cork city expands outwards. Whether that goes smoothly or becomes a point of contention for the new Glanmire remains to be seen.