Race for extra seat set to be a two-man battle

HISTORIAN Kieran McCarthy could be shaping Cork city’s future if he is, as predicted, in the final shake-up for the extra new seat in the city’s largest ward.

Following boundary changes, the sprawling former six-seater, with an electorate of 19,210 spread from inner city areas near City Hall out to suburban estates in Ballinlough and Mahon, has been given an extra seat to reflect population growth.

With seven seats up for grabs, all six sitting councillors should, barring disaster, retain their seats. Despite the expected backlash against Fianna Fáil, Donal Counihan’s and Terry Shannon’s long-service record should stand them.

Fine Gael is running a third candidate to target a third seat.

The seat won by the poll topper Deirdre Clune in 2004 was taken over by Laura McGonigle. She should be safe.

Father of the city council, Jim Corr, a veteran of seven local elections and who won the final seat in 2004, should also be safe.

The party’s third candidate, Ballintemple-based Des Cahill, who runs his own butcher’s shop and catering company, will be hoping to capitalise on the swing away from Fianna Fáil.

But the race for the new seventh seat looks set to be a two-man contest between Mr McCarthy, who is running as an Independent, and Sinn Féin’s Ken Ahern. Mr McCarthy is well known across the city for his writing on local history and his work with schools on history projects.

And the Sinn Féin party has been working intensively on the ground since 2004 when its candidate Dermot O’Mahony performed well, taking 799 votes just behind a PD candidate who narrowly missed out on winning the final seat.

Mahon-based Mr Ahern, a 29-year-old studying Government and Public Policy at UCC, should benefit from his community roles with Mahon Community Association and Mahon Community Centre.

He has also been chairperson of the Martin Hurson Sinn Féin cumann in UCC which won the award for best political society in the college two years running.

But five years is a long time in politics.

The industrial parks in Mahon and Blackrock have been rocked by the loss of several major employers in recent years.

The Fianna Fáil candidates who are knocking on doors are getting it in the neck for this and other national issues.

Important local issues like the campaign to secure funding to repair the dilapidated public swimming pool in Douglas, the campaign for funding for a library for Blackrock and Mahon, and the 20-year wait for the renewal of Blackrock village are also featuring.

Labour’s Denis O’Flynn’s work on these issues should see him retain his seat.

But chronic traffic problems associated with the recent intensification of development around Mahon Point and Jacob’s Island, are a major issue.

The candidates’ response to how they propose to deal with these issues could sway voters.

The former Green Party councillor Chris O’Leary faces an anxious wait to see if his decision to run as an Independent will hit his core vote.

However, his work on the ground combating anti-social behaviour, should stand to him.

And he is also enjoying a high profile at the moment thanks to his work promoting allotments, which are featured on the RTÉ television series, Corrigan’s City Garden.

Fianna Fáil’s Deirdre Foley completes the line-up but is unlikely to feature in the final shake-up.

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