THE number of seats on Cork County Council is to be increased from 48 to 55 following the May 28 local elections.
This is primarily due to the abolition of the 12 town councils. A total of 11 of the 71 candidates from the four major parties are sitting town councillors.
Some of them will find a seat at County Hall, more won’t. Because of the changes to a number of the county’s electoral areas, there will be casualties among big-name county councillors, and they are more likely to be from Fine Gael.
The best case scenario for the Labour Party will be to hold seven seats, but on a bad day it could be five or less. The party has two runners in the Cobh/Glanmire electoral area who have both been co-opted to the local authority.
Cllr Noel Costello, based in Glanmire, looks the more likely to take a seat, as Cobh-based Cllr Cathal Rasmussen is the newest member of the council having only taken over a few months ago from the long-serving John Mulvihill.
Some of Cllr Martin Coughlan’s natural territory has been eroded by boundary changes in the Macroom/ Blarney electoral area, but political punters would be foolish to write him off as he has a record as an on-the-ground worker, as has Cllr Noel McCarthy who should hold onto his seat in Fermoy.
Paramedic Brendan Leahy is the only party representative in West Cork where the number of council seats will be reduced from 12 to eight and he looks decidedly vulnerable.
Labour is fielding two newcomers in the 10-seater Ballincollig/Carrigaline area, even though one of them, Angela Murphy, is a town councillor in Passage West.
The other is Liam O’Connor and it is unlikely both will be elected.
In Mallow, Cllr Ronan Sheehan will have the backing of the Sherlock machine, but Sinn Féin will target his seat. Meanwhile, Eric Nolan, a newcomer, is the party’s only candidate in the expanded East Cork electoral area, and thus should have a fighting chance of winning a seat.
Nobody doubts Sinn Féin will make headway in the local elections, but by how much?
Cobh-based town councillor Kieran McCarthy should be able to get across the line, and Ger Keohane may also make it if he can garner enough votes in his highly populated home base of Glanmire. The party is up against it in Mallow where seven sitting councillors are fighting for six seats.
Local town councillor Melissa Mullane will have to unseat Ronan Sheehan (Lab) to have a chance.
In West Cork, Sinn Féin is running Paul Hayes and town councillor Donnachadh Ó Seaghdha. It’s unlikely both will be elected, but one may with the help of the other’s transfers.
Des O’Grady, a former general election candidate, has done his work in the Blarney/Macroom area and looks a very good prospect.
Youghal-based Michelle Hennessy, who is Sinn Féin’s only county councillor should retain her seat, especially as her hometown TD Sandra McLellan will throw the organisation’s weight behind her.
Her running mate, Midleton town councillor Pat Buckley, could prove a surprise.
In the Carrigaline/Ballincollig electoral area, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire missed out narrowly in 2009 and should make it this time.
Sinn Féin will be hoping his running mate, Michael ‘Frick’ Murphy, will also emerge in this 10-seater, but that could be a tall order.
June Murphy, who ran in the 2002 general election, could well win a seat in the Fermoy area, while town councillor Rachel McCarthy is in with a chance in the Bandon area.
Two Fianna Fáil certainties are outgoing councillors Frank O’Flynn and Kevin O’Keeffe in the Fermoy electoral area.
Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald should also make it in Mallow, but Cllr Bart Donegan will struggle as he’s lost his backwater of Charleville to boundary realignment.
Bernard Moynihan, brother of TD Michael, is also running in the Mallow area and could have an outside chance.
In the Bandon area, Cllr Alan Coleman, the party’s leader on the council, is a dead cert and with proper vote management in this six-seater constituency, could get running-mate Margaret Murphy O’Mahony over the line.
Fianna Fáil are running five in the eight-seater West Cork area and feel they have three quotas there.
Cllr Patrick Murphy in Bantry should keep his seat. There should be another seat around Clonakilty to be grabbed by either Cllr Donal O’Rourke or Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan.
Former county councillor Joe Carroll will also be in the running as he should have the Skibbereen area to himself.
In the seven-seater Cobh/Glanmire constituency, former junior minister Michael Ahern will walk it in and may do enough to bring running mate Pádraig O’Sullivan with him.
In East Cork, Aaron O’Sullivan (Youghal) and town councillor Niall O’Neill (Midleton) are strategically well-placed, but it’s unlikely both will make it.
Fianna Fáil should get Cllr Seamus McGrath, Daithí Ó Donnabháin and Mary Rose Desmond elected in the 10-seater Ballincollig/Carrigaline area.
In Macroom, Cllr Andreas Moynihan will keep his seat and if, as expected, GAA county board chairman Bob Ryan gets the nod at selection convention next Friday, he will also get elected.
EVEN though there’s an increase in seats on the council, Fine Gael readily admit they will find it very hard to hold onto the 22 they currently possess.
Running six outgoing councillors in the West Cork area for eight seats seems risky. If they are lucky, they will retain just four of them in that electoral area and it could even be down to three.
The party is running three newcomers — Kay Dawson, Phil Leahy, and Aileen Brown — in the Fermoy electoral area and in a worse case scenario, may only hold one seat.
It’s running outgoing councillors Noel Buckley, mayor of Co Cork Noel O’Connor, and former TD Gerard Murphy in the Mallow area and it’s likely one of them will lose out.
In the Cobh/Glanmire area Cobh town councillor Sinead Sheppard is joined on the ticket by Anthony Barry (Carrigtwohill) and Conor Murphy (Carrignavar). If two cross the line in this seven-seater, Fine Gael will be doing very well.
The picture is rosier in the Cork East area, with councillors Michael Hegarty and Barbara Murray certainties and newcomer Midleton’s Susan McCarthy could do very well.
Fine Gael would be equally confident of doing the business in Carrigaline/Ballincollig where Garret Kelleher will be hoping to get transfers from councillors John A Collins, Deirdre Forde, and Derry Canty. It is not impossible that all four will pass the finishing post.
Cllr Michael Creed, town councillor Ted Lucey, and Damien Boylan, are on the ticket in the Macroom/Blarney area.
Michael Creed looks a good bet to be re-elected, but transfers will depend on which one of the others he brings along with him.
Cllrs Kevin Murphy and Tim Lombard will run alongside James O’Donovan in the Bandon/Kinsale area and it looks likely that Fine Gael will only be able to gain two of the six seats on offer in that constituency.
Cllr Kevin Murphy, who is the party’s leader on the council, admitted it would be an uphill struggle for Fine Gael to retain its current level of seats in County Hall.
“We’re going to be under pressure, there’s no doubt about it. Of course there’s going to be an anti-government vote. There’s the property tax, austerity, water charges coming, the state of the roads, septic tank charges etc,” he said.
“There’s no question the Government is tackling the financial crisis and things are improving. But there’s a lot of people out there who are very angry, and to be honest, I don’t blame them,” Cllr Murphy said.