The results from the local elections have thrown up a few surprise selections, including an ex-UFC fighter and a participant in Googlebox Ireland, write Ryan O’Neill and Louise Walsh.
This year’s election proved age is no barrier to success. In Cork, a 19-year-old UCC student became the youngest member of Cork County Council after he was elected in the Carrigaline municipal district.
Ben Dalton-O’Sullivan, a government undergraduate student from Ballygarvan, only put himself forward at the start of March, but was elected on the seventh count along with Fine Gael’s Liam O’Connor on Sunday.
The teenager has been active in his community, and recently organised a bus to Belfast for people in Cork for vital eye cataract operations. Speaking yesterday, he said his shock victory was “still sinking in”.
“A friend rang me and said ‘hello, Councillor’, and I still can’t believe it,” said Mr Dalton-O’Sullivan.
“I have always been political, but as an Independent, I only had one canvasser most nights and only eight posters and about 5,000 leaflets. I had very little money put in, and no paid ads on Facebook or in the papers or anything.
“Seeing the tallies when the boxes were opened in Mallow on Saturday was the biggest shock. It’s unbelievable.
"I said to them that all I could promise was that I would do my very best for them. I don’t think it’ll be hard to balance my studies with being a councillor, as helping people in my community is something I enjoy doing.”
At the opposite end of the age scale, 89-year-old Independent councillor Ian McGarvey was re-elected to Donegal County Council, and is Ireland’s oldest public representative on either side of the border. A former FAI Junior Cup football champion who also served as mayor of Letterkenny last year, he edged out Fine Gael first-time runner Eimer Friel to take the third and final seat in the Milford electoral area.
Following his victory, he said he hoped to continue his work advocating for elderly care services and helping to reduce isolation among the elderly. In the capital, former mixed martial arts fighter Paddy Holohan was elected in South Dublin County Council.
The 31-year-old, who fought in the UFC until 2016 before retiring due to a rare blood disorder, was elected on the sixth count in the Tallaght South electoral area.
Mr Holohan, who used to train at the same gym as UFC star Conor McGregor, tweeted afterwards that he had been “elected in the community [he] grew up in… from council kid to councillor.” His win even prompted a shout-out from UFC star McGregor himself, who tweeted Holohan saying: “An amazing achievement!”
Meanwhile, history was made in Limerick, where Fianna Fáil’s Abul Kalam Azad Talukder became the first Muslim to be elected to its city council. A member of Fianna Fáil since 2004, he faced a longer wait than most, hanging on until approximately 3.30am on Monday before getting over the line on the seventh count in Limerick City West.
He said: “I have no words to describe how I feel after this. I hope that my election will give minorities hope that they can come out and get involved, and become part of their community. It’s not about this election or politics, it applies to anything in life.
“I want to thank Fianna Fáil for trusting in me, as well as my family, my campaigners and everyone who voted. I also especially want to thank TD Niall Collins for all his help along the way.”
Meanwhile, the head of a Gogglebox family and wife of a famous Nollywood actor has become Meath’s first-ever migrant county councillor. Well-known for her humorous comments on the hit TV show for the last four years, Yemi Adenuga has been elected as a Fine Gael councillor for the Navan electoral area.
Yemi’s campaign manager was A-list Nigerian actor Deji Adenuga, who has starred in more than 200 movies in the last 25 years and splits his time between his home in Navan and film sets in Nigeria.
“I would never have thought of politics in times past, but I’m doing a lot of work for the community already and when Fine Gael approached me, I thought why not — it would give me a bigger platform for the community,” said Ms Adenuga. “I’m the first migrant ever on the council and the feedback has been fantastic.
“We’ve been on Gogglebox for the last four years and I like to think that we are the eyes and voice of the people on what is on the TV.”
“I’m delighted to be declared the first migrant councillor in Meath and I’m really looking forward to working with the council on issues that affect the people in the town and county. This is a victory not just for me but for all women and ethnic minorities,” she added.
And spare a thought for Patrick Feeney who got just one first preference vote in Galway City Central. One. Mr Feeney did stand in two other wards — Galway City West where he got 15 first preference votes and Connemara South where he gained an additional 32 votes. Proof, were it needed, that politics takes all sorts.