First-time lead for FG on city council

FINE Gael has for the first time become the largest party on Cork City Council, ending decades of Fianna Fáil dominance.

The collapse in the FF vote from 10 to six seats has pushed it into third place, behind FG and Labour.

FG has become the largest party by simply retaining its eight seats, but not without drama.

Joe O’Callaghan lost his seat in Cork North West, by 48 votes, to FF’s Tony Fitzgerald, but the party retained the seat in South Central vacated by the retirement of Denis ‘Dino’ Cregan, through first-time candidate Emmet O’Halloran.

First-time candidate Des Cahill and sitting councillor Laura McGonigle romped home in first and second place in South East. The party scraped a third seat here when father of the council Jim Corr took the seventh and final seat on the seventh count.

The seat won by Labour’s Ger Gibbons in South West increased the party’s tally to seven seats, making it the second-largest party on the council.

Cllr Lorraine Kingston, the only Labour candidate in South Central, topped the poll with a massive 1,778 votes – giving her a surplus of just over 600.

The massive swing to the left saw Sinn Féin double its number of seats to four.

Cllr Jonathan O’Brien took the second seat in North West, 100 votes behind independent Dave McCarthy.

SF’s Henry Cremin made the breakthrough in South West in the early hours of Saturday, and Thomas Gould was elected on the ninth count in North Central yesterday.

There are now four independents on the council. Joining Cllr McCarthy and former Green Party councillor Chris O’Leary, who retained his seat in South East, will be Mick Finn, a former Fianna Fáil member and election worker with former TD John Dennehy, who won a seat in South Central, and local historian, Kieran McCarthy, who took the sixth seat in the seven-seat South East ward.

Ted Tynan of the Workers’ Party took the fourth seat in North East. And Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry topped the poll in North Central with 2,096 votes – a surplus of more than 700 votes.

FG performed well in South West where John Buttimer topped the poll with 2,070 votes, but the party will be slightly concerned that deputy lord mayor Patricia Gosch had to wait until the ninth count to secure her seat in North Central, alongside FF’s Kenneth O’Flynn.

The Green Party vote collapsed with tipped candidates like Mary Ryder and Mick Murphy excluded in the early counts.

However, FF, which struggled to win the final seats in later counts, will take some solace from the fact that Mary Shields took the second seat in South West.

Sitting independent Annette Spillane’s mistake nominating herself to run in the wrong ward in North Central led to her losing her seat.

The council’s new political makeup paves the way for major changes to the city’s mayoral pact – which sees the office of lord mayor rotate between FG, Labour and FF.

Pact members on the 31-seat council must have a combined total of 16 seats, with the largest party dictating the timing of rotation.

FG members will meet today to discuss their strategy for pact negotiations which will take place in the coming days.

Speculation was rife on Saturday that the pact could be completely overhauled, excluding FF and possibly with Sinn Féin in the picture.

But FG party whip Dara Murphy said the existing pact has worked well in the past.

“I personally would not like to see a deal with Sinn Féin,” he said.

However, there is a possibility that FG and Labour, with a combined total of 15 seats, may consider a pact deal with independents. Talks on a possible pact will take place in the coming days.

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