The historic reorganisation of local government in Cork has impacted on most of Cork County Council’s municipal districts (MD) but none more so than this one.
Redrawn, reduced and redefined, the former 10-seater Ballincollig-Carrigaline MD has become the six-seater Carrigaline MD, resulting in the unification of one of the county’s largest towns under one MD and the delivery of an improved representational ratio.
The scale of changes makes it difficult to call the result in an area where four sitting councillors are among those running for six seats.
The boundary changes have caused some confusion amongst voters in the interface areas. Some councillors have lost vast swathes of their electoral base.
Sitting councillor John Collins has decided not to run for election again while another sitting councillor from an adjoining MD will contest this election in the new area.
And you can throw into the mix two teenage first-time candidates — one of whom is juggling their campaign with studying for her Leaving Cert.
The sprawling former 10-seater Ballincollig-Carrigaline MD, flanked at either side by two of the county’s most populated commuter towns, Ballincollig at the western end and Carrigaline to the east, had a population of almost 72,000, giving a representational ratio of 7,195:1 — one county councillor for roughly every 7,200 voters.
There was also the curious anomaly in that the town of Carrigaline itself was split between two MDs — the northern half in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline area and the southern side in Bandon-Kinsale.
The city boundary extension, which takes legal effect on May 31 and the review by the boundary committee, has created the smaller but more unified six-seater Carrigaline MD focused on and centered around the town of Carrigaline — which now accounts for just over 40% of the electorate.
The town of Ballincollig and areas around Douglas and Rochestown and their population of around 52,414 citizens are transferring into the extended city council area.
Several electoral districts which were in the former Bandon-Kinsale MD, despite always being more naturally geographically linked to Carrigaline, are sensibly being transferred to the new Carrigaline area including 183 voters from Carrigaline and townlands Liscleary, Kilpatrick, Dunderrow, Ballygarvan, Ballyfoyle and Farranbrien.
The new MD also contains the former town council area of Passage West and the Monkstown Urban and Templebreedy electoral districts, as well, of course, as the portions of Ballygarvan, Douglas, Inishkenny, and Monkstown Rural electoral divisions that will remain within the Cork county boundary.
It is hoped that combined, the substantial changes will have the effect of creating a redefined Carrigaline MD with a core population of around 35,141 which, with six elected members, will produce an improved representational ratio of 5,857:1.
Eleven candidates have declared — three Fine Gael, three Fianna Fáil, one Sinn Féin, one Green Party, two independents and one Aontú candidate.
Four are sitting councillors and it would be fair to assume they will all hold their seats.
The money will be on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to pick up the remaining two seats with Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s political machine and the McGrath dynasty’s machine rowing in behind their respective candidates.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Seamus McGrath, who was co-opted onto the council in 2007 to replace his brother, Michael, the party’s finance spokesperson, and who is now fighting his third local authority election, has seen a large tranche of his electoral base transfer to the city.
But given his 12 years of experience on the county council, his high-profile year as mayor of the county in 2016, his Passage West roots and his family’s political pedigree, the leader of the council’s Fianna Fáil grouping should retain his seat with his surplus set to benefit his running mates.
He is joined on the ticket by Michael Corcoran from Passage West, a recently retired garda and former central executive member of the Garda Representative Association, who spent almost 40 years in the force, and by Crosshaven resident Audrey Buckley, who is well-known locally as an active community volunteer, particularly on environmental and marine issues.
The money here would be on Corcoran to take a second seat.
Fine Gael Cllr Aidan Lombard, from Minane Bridge, who was co-opted as a member of Cork County Council in the former Bandon-Kinsale MD in June 2016 to replace his brother Tim, following his selection to the Seanad, has been a solid pair of hands but has been affected by the boundary changes.
He is joined on the ticket by Liam O’Connor, a scientist in analytical development at Johnson & Johnson who is originally from Kerry but who is living in Carrigaline town, and a late addition to the ticket, Cork City firefighter Michael Paul Murtagh who lives in Crosshaven, and who is involved with Crosshaven Scout and Crosshaven Community Association.
The other incumbents include Sinn Féin Cllr Michael Frick Murphy, a former member of Passage West Town Council who has been outspoken on several local issues including the closure threat over the Passage West health centre, and independent Cllr Marcia D’Alton, an environmental engineer who spent 10 years on the Passage West Town Council before being elected to Cork County Council in 2014.
She was part of the committee which organised the first Cork Harbour Open Day a decade ago, and she has played a key role in the local campaign against the development of an incinerator in Ringaskiddy.
Completing the field are 18-year-old Catriona Reid of the Green Party from Carrigaline, who is studying for her Leaving Cert — her father, Gordon, is running in the neighbouring MD; 19-year-old independent Ben Dalton O’Sullivan, a UCC politics student and community volunteer from Ballygarvan, and John Weldon, of Aontú, who is from Ballinhassig.
Mr Weldon, who polled 692 votes when he stood as an independent pro-life, pro-business and pro-farming candidate in the 1992 general election says his political blood can be traced back to his great grandfather, Michael Francis Murphy, who was a rural district councillor for the area in the first decade of the 20th century.
Given the Carrigaline MD’s blend of large urban town with fast-growing urban estates, sweeping rural farming land, coastal and harbour communities and industrial, research and educational hubs, the mix of issues on the doorsteps is wide and varied.
Local election reliables like footpaths, potholes and street lighting are common across the MD with housing-related issues such as access to social housing, rent rates, housing density and pattern of development, are high on the agenda for voters in and around Carrigaline town centre.
Associated issues such as traffic congestion and the need for public transport improvements follow on.
While Carrigaline has seen improvements in its bus service since the introduction of a 24-hour service on the 220 route, there have been calls for improvements on the 223 service to Ringaskiddy, the beating heart of Ireland’s pharmaceutical sector and home to the National Maritime College and various third-level research institutes.
Better bus links to Passage West and Monkstown have been mentioned and there have been calls for a park and ride in the town.
On the back of genuine concern in the town last year following a spate of business closures, leaving several units on the main street vacant, there is a broad welcome to the news that work on the town’s long-awaited western relief road will start later this year.
This, it is hoped, will help ease congestion in the town centre, and when combined with a new drive by local businesses to lobby and speak out on behalf of the town, will make the area more attractive for retailers and investment.
But there have also been calls for a longer-term strategic transport study for the town with voters accepting that the M28 motorway, which is facing a legal challenge, is more a national rather than a local issue. There is a similar view on the proposed Ringaskiddy incinerator.
Voters have also raised the need for increased garda resources in the town following a series of incidents linked to gangs of youths gathering in the town centre.
In Passage West, the future of the Doyle dockyard site is a key concern.
The site was placed on the market last year and the county council secured €1m in urban regeneration funding — fuelling hopes that it could use it to develop a masterplan for the site, opening the town up to its waterfront and regenerating the area.
But the Doyle Shipping Group-owned site was withdrawn from the market.
Sitting councillors say they hope to ring-fence that funding to ensure it’s still available if the site sale situation changes over the coming months.
Fine Gael candidate in Bandon-Kinsale Marie O’Sullivan is the daughter of late TD Denis (Denny Owen) O’Sullivan and former Bandon town councillor Kathleen Hawkes (not Kathleen Wolfe) as stated in yesterday’s local election report on the Bandon-Kinsale municipal district.
- Audrey Buckley, Crosshaven (Fianna Fáil)
- Michael Corcoran, Passage West (Fianna Fáil)
- Marcia D’Alton, Passage West (Non Party)
- Ben Dalton O’Sullivan, Ballygarvan (Non Party)
- Aidan Lombard, Minane Bridge (Fine Gael)
- Séamus McGrath, Carrigaline (Fianna Fáil)
- Michael Frick Murphy, Passage West (Sinn Féin)
- Michael Paul Murtagh Crosshaven (Fine Gael)
- Liam O’Connor, Carrigaline (Fine Gael)
- Catriona Reid, Carrigaline (Green Party)
- John Weldon, Ballinhassig (Aontú)