One constituency with definite changes ahead

THIS is one constituency where there will definitely be changes of personnel.

For starters, FG stalwarts Maura ‘Cal’ McCarthy and Tadgh O’Donovan have retired. Christy O’Sullivan, who topped the poll as an Independent in 2004 with 2,859 first preferences, later changed allegiance to FF and won a Dáil seat for them at the last outing.

He has passed on the county council baton to his son, Christopher jnr who is expected to be returned as an FF councillor, albeit with maybe a smaller vote than his father got.

Aidan Healy, a 49-year-old post office worker in Skibbereen, is running instead of Mr O’Donovan and is expected to retain a seat for FG.

Likewise, John O’Sullivan a farmer from Courtmacsherry replaces Ms McCarthy. Mr O’Sullivan also ran in 2004 and got a healthy 1,225 first preferences before being eliminated on the sixth count.

Vote management has always been a hallmark of FG campaigns in West Cork and, with four candidates chasing four seats, there is no apparent reason why the goal will not be achieved.

Jim Daly secured the seventh seat for FG in 2004.

He has since retired as a school principal and focused full-time on politics.

Mr Daly has also built up a healthy base, but will have to improve on his last outing if he is to fulfil a Dáil ambition to become the designated successor to Cork South West TD Jim O’Keeffe.

FG’s John Collins, a construction contracts manager, won the third seat in 2004 after getting 1,516 first preferences. He could find it a bit harder this time as there are two other candidates in the race from his hometown of Dunmanway.

Nevertheless, he should gain a seat on the back of FG’s general rise in the polls.

FF sitting councillor Donal O’Rourke first won a seat in County Hall in 1991 and last time out got a very credible 2,188 first preferences, bringing him the second seat.

Mr O’Rourke maintains he’s under pressure. However, the former chairman of CIT and Cork County VEC should manage to retain his seat, despite the predicted backlash against FF.

His running-mate, Joe Carroll, may be vulnerable. The former bus driver turned full-time politician was elected on the seventh count for the fifth seat in 2004. The married father-of-two will be under pressure to retain his seat. There are three other candidates running in his native Skibbereen and downturn in FF popularity means he may well be fighting it out with two left wing candidates for the final seat.

One of them is Cionnaith O Súilleabháin, the SF candidate, who many pundits believe is poised to take a seat for the party. In 2004, he got 1,244 first preferences and narrowly missed out on the last seat. Since then, he has enhanced his powerbase out from his hometown of Clonakilty, where he has been a member of the town council since 1994.

He’s been “knocking on every door” and says that if he doesn’t make it to County Hall this time he will not run again.

Brendan Leahy, 40, is running for Labour and is believed to be in with a real shout as well. In 2004, with two Labour candidates in the field, the leading ambulance paramedic got just 887 first preferences.

Being the sole face of Labour this time, it is believed he will be a serious contender.

TJ Farrell, a farmer from Dunmanway, is being viewed by some politics-watchers as a dark horse. However, being a first-time candidate and running for FF will hinder his chances somewhat. His family are steeped in FF and it’s understood that the family farm was used to train the famous “Boys of Kilmichael” who fought the Black and Tans. Mr Farrell will have to put in an equally impressive fight.

Two independents – John Kearney and Declan Hurley – are also in the field, although they are seen as being somewhat off the pace.

Mr Kearney, 38, runs the Baltimore Diving and Watersports Centre, is well-known in community circles and has heightened his profile in recent weeks. However, his main vote-catching base will be on the western side of the electoral area where he could do damage to Cllr Carroll. But Mr Kearney, if he survives the first count, will have difficulty picking up transfers.

Mr Hurley, 32, a farmer/horticulturist, is well-known in Dunmanway where he is an energetic community activist. He will have to take a lot of votes off FG’s Mr Collins and FF’s Mr O’Farrell to be in with a chance of a seat – but should not be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Declan Waugh says he’s the first environmental scientist to contest a local election, anywhere in the country, and warns: “If we continue with ‘business as usual’ (in the council) we will not overcome the economic and environmental challenges we are facing.”

He will have to do a lot more than just pull out the traditional Green vote if he has any hope of taking a seat in County Hall.

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