Local Elections: Rural influx changes constituency profile

In the third of a five-part series on the local elections, Kevin O’Neill profiles the revamped Cork City North-West district

Local Elections: Rural influx changes constituency profile

The new Cork City North-West district has been opened up by the departures of several candidates.

The addition of a large rural area alongside a populous urban core has changed the profile of the constituency too and the removal of one of the three northside city constituencies has left many candidates with big decisions about where to run.

In 2014, Sinn Féin’s Mick Nugent was elected on the first count, having exceeded the quota. Fianna Fáil’s Tony Fitzgerald was next over the line, having almost achieved a quota on the first count.

Sinn Féin’s standing in the area was boosted by Kenneth Collins’ election, while Marion O’Sullivan of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (now Solidarity) took the final seat in what was then a four-seater, fending off some well-known challengers.

Former lord mayor Mick O’Connell was one of the many victims of Labour’s wipeout in the election — the party lost 81 seats nationally, including all seven of its Cork City representation — while Fine Gael’s Joe O’Callaghan, also a former lord mayor, didn’t make the cut either.

The new expanded ward will have six seats and quite a few changes.

For starters, Marion O’Sullivan has confirmed she is retiring from politics.

Solidarity’s sole representative in Cork North-West will be councillor Fiona Ryan.

A vocal campaigner during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign, Ms Ryan was co-opted to Cork City Council after the 2016 general election when Mick Barry was elected to the Dáil.

Her co-option caused a stir at the time, with the Labour Party contesting it, but she eventually took the seat.

Lil O’Donnell, elected as part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance in Cork North-Central in 2014, left the party in 2017 and continues to serve as an Independent. Ms O’Donnell has yet to confirm whether she intends to run again.

From Blarney St, it would be expected that she would try to stake a claim in Cork North-West but it is, as yet, unclear.

Mick Nugent is to stand in Cork City North-East, meanwhile.

Sinn Féin was one of the parties left with big decisions to be made at the time.

Under the redrawn wards, all three of its elected northside representatives — Mr Nugent, Kenneth Collins, and Thomas Gould — were representing the western end.

After much discussion behind the scenes, the party opted to select Mr Nugent, who is from Ballyvolane, in Cork City North-East, leaving Mr Gould and Mr Collins in Cork City North-West.

They will be joined by newcomer John Stanton on the ticket, with Sinn Féin eyeing the ward as a real opportunity to add to the 10 seats it already holds on the council.

Mr Stanton is from Blarney and will be hoping to tap into that end of the constituency, while Mr Gould — originally from Knocknaheeny and now living on Cathedral Rd — and Mr Collins, from Farranree, will be hopeful of building on strong performances in 2014.

Fianna Fáil also had some big decisions to make after the redrawn boundaries.

Between North-Central and North-West, the party has three sitting councillors: Blackpool-based Kenneth O’Flynn and John Sheehan, and former lord mayor Tony Fitzgerald, from Knocknaheeny.

Mr O’Flynn has opted to run in the North-East ward but, in a brief shock, the party’s selection convention threatened to throw a spanner into the works.

Mr Sheehan was added to the ticket with long-time party member Sean Coleman selected to join him in what was, on the night, planned to be a two-candidate strategy.

While Mr Fitzgerald accepted the result, party headquarters stepped in and added him to a three-strong ticket.

Bob Ryan, currently a member of Cork County Council, had signalled his intention to run on the city ticket.

Mr Ryan, who represents the Blarney area, pulled out of the race just days before the selection convention and has instead opted to run for the party in the Macroom area for a seat on Cork County Council.

It has been rumoured that the party may still seek to add a candidate from Blarney but has yet to confirm anyone, leaving the ticket quite heavily leaning towards the city centre.

Fine Gael currently has no seats in this area but the party will be hopeful of making a change in that regard with its ticket.

Julie O’Leary, a Fine Gael candidate in the North-West ward in the local elections, speaking with Anthony Horgan at Horgans of Blarney. Picture: Denis Minihane
Julie O’Leary, a Fine Gael candidate in the North-West ward in the local elections, speaking with Anthony Horgan at Horgans of Blarney. Picture: Denis Minihane

Julie O’Leary, a barrister who ran in the 2016 general election, has been selected to run alongside Damian Boylan, who was just 100 votes off a county council seat in the old Blarney-Macroom district in 2014.

The party was understood to be considering adding a third candidate but this has yet to materialise.

Outside the main parties, there is scope for disruption.

Labour’s Luke Carroll is a first-time candidate who will be looking to reclaim a seat for the party in what was traditionally a strong area.

Independent councillor Kevin Conway is currently on Cork County Council but has confirmed he will contest the next election in the city area. Mr Conway represents the Blarney area at the moment.

The Green Party has confirmed Mark Cronin, from Dublin Hill, will represent the area as it looks to reclaim a presence on Cork City Council.

It will be Mr Cronin’s first time standing for election, with the party optimistic that a renewed focus on environmental issues and its public standing on matters such as the OPW flood scheme in the city centre will give it a boost. Four candidates ran in 2014, none were elected.

Catherine Coffey will represent the Workers’ Party in the area. A community worker and activist, Ms Coffey is originally from Kerry.

She moved to Cork ten years ago and has been involved in the water campaign and the Workers’ Party’s right to housing campaign.

Martina Murphy has been confirmed as a non-party candidate, Finian Toomey will run for Aontú, while TJ Hogan had confirmed his intention to run but has since pulled out of the race.

Joe O’Callaghan rounds out an interesting ticket. A former lord mayor, he failed in his efforts to secure a place on the Fine Gael ticket and has opted for a solo run as an Independent.

Mr O’Callaghan has been vocal in criticism of his former party, describing Fine Gael as weak on accountability and law and order.

He is also a former Labour member and is based in Blarney where he will be hopeful of securing a seat.

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