Retirement guarantees ward a new councillor

A RETIREMENT has made one thing certain – south central will have at least one new councillor after the elections.

The only questions are will Fianna Fáil hold their two seats, will Fine Gael be able to retain its single seat, as some observers predict, will it be the independents or the Green Party to make the breakthrough.

All has changed, changed utterly, in this densely populated square mile ward since the 2004 election.

Fine Gael veteran Cllr Dino Cregan is not contesting the election after a 30-year career in politics and the seat he held in 2004, is up for grabs. The party is running two candidates and should retain Mr Cregan’s seat.

Young gun first-time election candidate Emmet O’Halloran began working on his campaign on the ground last summer and is hoping to make an impression.

But his running mate, well-known photographer Billy MacGill is very well known in Cork. Whether his reputation and the recognition will be enough to get him over the line to take the Fine Gael seat remains to be seen.

Like all Fianna Fáil councillors, Sean Martin and Tom O’Driscoll will be waiting anxiously to see if voters take their anger at national government out on the party’s local representatives.

Fianna Fáil’s vote in this ward slipped from a high of 35% in 1999, to 31% in 2004. If the party’s local vote in this ward follows national trends and falls below 27%, the two seats could be in danger. But Mr O’Driscoll’s years of hard graft on the ground, and Mr Martin’s renowned election machine should see them safe.

The Independent Councillor Con O’Connell, who topped the poll in 2004, has died since the last election.

The fact that three independent candidates are running in this small ward – Mick Finn, Paudie Dineen, and Tom McIntyre – proves there is room for an independent seat.

However, Mr O’Connell’s family has publicly criticised his former canvasser, Mr McIntyre, for using his image on his election literature without their consent. We will have to wait until election day to see if that has damaged his chances.

One of two dark horses to watch is first time election candidate, Mick Finn, who left Fianna Fáil after the medical card fiasco.

He is a seasoned election worker, having worked closely on former TD and councillor, John Dennehy’s campaigns.

Sinn Féin’s Fiona Kerins was co-opted on to the council in July 2007 to fill Mr O’Connell’s seat. She was a whisker away from taking the ward’s final seat in 2004, losing out by a handful of votes to Mr Cregan, and should be able to build on those votes this time around.

Former Labour councillor Ciarán Lynch won a Dáil seat in 2007 and was replaced on the council by Cllr Lorraine Kingston.

The Labour party has traditionally held a seat in this ward.

But another dark horse could be the Green Party’s Mary Ryder. The Turner’s Cross-based candidate is well known and polled well in 2004. Her strong community, rather than party vote, coupled with the fact that she could capitalise on the Green’s role in Government, could see her in the final shake-up.

Voters could also be anxious to get a Green face back on the city council following former Green Party councillor Chris O’Leary’s decision to resign from the party earlier this year.

Evergreen Street publican Paudie Dineen completes the line-up.

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