Local Elections: Familiar faces, but seven into six won’t go

In the final of a five-part series, Kevin O’Neill profiles the competitive Cork City South-East constituency.

Local Elections: Familiar faces, but seven into six won’t go

The new Cork City South East local electoral area is potentially one of the most competitive in the entire country.

As well as decreasing from seven seats to six, it is also taking in huge areas from Cork County Council and the representatives for these areas.

Of the 11 people who have already staked their claim for a seat on Cork City Council, seven are elected representatives on Cork City or County Council — and that does not include the three current City Council members who have confirmed they are stepping down.

Interestingly, each of these three come from a major party: Laura McGonigle of Fine Gael, Nicholas O’Keeffe of Fianna Fáil, and Shane O’Shea of Sinn Féin.

Ms McGonigle was first elected in 2009 and retained her seat in 2014.

Fine Gael has a strong presence in the south-east: two of their five councillors in Cork city are from the area and losing a familiar face is far from ideal, but they have strong candidates coming into the city from the county.

Mr O’Keeffe, meanwhile, announced his decision not to contest the election in January, citing family and career commitments.

Fianna Fáil has also had a traditionally strong presence in the area. In 2014, two of their three candidates were elected, and the third — running mate Kate Martin — was just 50 votes short of making the cut too.

Mr O’Shea also noted that family and career concerns were behind his decision to not run in the south-east again but the one-term Sinn Féin councillor also pointed the finger at the rental crisis which had forced him and his family to move from the area.

These changes left all parties with big decisions to make when it came to selecting candidates for 2019.

For Sinn Féin, rather than adding another candidate to the ticket, they have opted to secure their existing presence in the area and are running former Lord Mayor, Cllr Chris O’Leary, on a solo run.

Mr O’Leary was the first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor in 90 years when he took office in 2015.

He was first elected to Cork City Council in 2004 as a member of the Green Party before being re-elected as an Independent in 2009 and then as a member of Sinn Féin in 2014.

Fianna Fáil, meanwhile, will run a split ticket in a bid to secure backing in both the city and county areas of the new district.

Cllr Terry Shannon will be joined by county councillor Mary Rose Desmond on the ticket.

Mr Shannon will be looking to shore up support in Ballintemple, Ballinlough, and Mahon, while Ms Desmond is running out of the Douglas-Rochestown area.

Fine Gael has taken the same approach.

Former Lord Mayor, Cllr Des Cahill, a Ballintemple resident, will be running in the city, while Douglas-based county councillor Deirdre Forde will be looking to make the transition from county to city.

Outside the main parties, there is quite a bit to consider, too.

Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy topped the poll in 2014, securing more than 1,500 first-preference votes.

A poster featuring Cllr Des Cahill seen by Pairc Uí Chaoimh. The Ballintemple resident will be running for City Council. Picture: Dan Linehan
A poster featuring Cllr Des Cahill seen by Pairc Uí Chaoimh. The Ballintemple resident will be running for City Council. Picture: Dan Linehan

He has put an emphasis on recreational and amenity sites, including the ongoing projects at Tramore Valley Park and Marina Park, and will be hoping that these will see him through in a competitive election.

Also running in Cork city south-east is county councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla. Mr Ó Cadhla was co-opted onto Cork County Council to represent the Cobh area after Claire Cullinane passed away in 2016.

He will run on behalf of the Chomhdháil Phobail The People’s Convention (CPPC) but has opted to run in the city, where he lives, rather than to attempt to retain his seat in Cobh.

Mr Ó Cadhla previously ran in the local election in 2014 and again in the general election in 2016.

Another candidate from the 2016 general election will also be hoping for better fortunes this time around is Lorna Bogue, who is running for the Green Party in south-east.

The Greens have not had a seat in the constituency since 2004 when Chris O’Leary was elected, but the party has been pushing its candidates for more than two years.

Ms Bogue was a vocal member of the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment and has also been a visible campaigner against the OPW flood plans for Cork city.

Joe Harris, a member of Cork County Council, has also thrown his hat into the ring for Cork city.

Elected in 2014 as an independent, he is now a member of the Social Democrats and is likely the party’s best chance of securing representation on Cork City Council this time out.

They have four candidates running in the city and Mr Harris, who also ran in the 2016 general election as an independent, is the only one currently elected to office.

Labour’s Peter Horgan, a Blackrock native, will lead the party’s efforts to regain its presence on Cork City Council.

Councillor Mary Rose Desmond in Douglas Village.
Councillor Mary Rose Desmond in Douglas Village.

In 2014, the party lost all seven of its seats, but a new generation of candidates are confident of better fortunes this time around.

First-time candidate Ed Fitzgerald will run for People Before Profit.

A local community activist, he has been closely aligned to the party’s campaigns around the housing issue.

Anna Daly will represent Aontú, the new party founded by former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín.

In 2014, the south-east returned two members of Fianna Fáil, two members of Fine Gael and two members of Sinn Féin, but it was an independent who took top spot in the voting.

With a redrawn boundary, the south-east of Cork now has an entirely different complexion.

While the city communities of Mahon, Blackrock, Ballintemple, and Ballinlough used to be the sole focus of issues here, the addition of Douglas and the surrounding residential areas has doubled the population of the ward.

It will pose a significant challenge for the city-based councillors when it comes to balancing the new and old communities and has clearly informed the selection of candidates when it comes to the main parties.

With lots of familiar faces to choose from, there is the potential that the smaller parties could be squeezed out entirely but the south-east has form when it comes to backing Independents, Greens and Labour Party candidates.

Three sitting councillors have already bowed out and still the ward is left trying to fit seven elected representatives into six seats.

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