Dramatic change to Cork City Council

Dramatic change to Cork City Council
Deirde Forde celebrating her election to Cork City Council.

A BOUNDARY extension and a dramatic turnover in seats has changed the shape of Cork City Council for the next five years.

Coming out of this weekend’s count, the story of the election was one of low turnout, a green surge, a shock for Sinn Féin, and a stalemate between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Sinn Fein candidate Mick Nugent, keeping and eye on the count at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Sinn Fein candidate Mick Nugent, keeping and eye on the count at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.

When the new City Council meets for the first time next month, heavy hitters like Sinn Féin’s Mick Nugent and Chris O’Leary will be missing while the Green Party could hold the balance of power when it comes to deciding how the chamber will function during the next term.

Meanwhile, a drop for Fianna Fáil and a mini-surge for Fine Gael will see the two civil war parties almost equal in numbers.

Fianna Fail candidate Fergal Dennehy with his supporters, after getting elected at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Fianna Fail candidate Fergal Dennehy with his supporters, after getting elected at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.

The RTÉ exit poll predicted a strong showing for the Greens, but jaws were dropping in Nemo Rangers GAA club on Saturday morning when tallies predicted four seats for the party, pulling votes from every corner of the city and every end of the political spectrum to regain a voice in City Hall after more than ten years.

With no clear majority in the Council Chamber, local party leaders have all said they are willing to explore all options to work together in the coming years.

That could mean a year in the Lord Mayor’s office for the Greens.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Mick Finn with his supporters after getting elected on the first count, at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Mick Finn with his supporters after getting elected on the first count, at the counting of votes for the local elections at City Hall, Cork.Picture: David Keane.

The biggest losers were Sinn Féin, losing half the eight-seat total from 2014 that made it a force to be reckoned with in local politics over the last five years.

As the candidates and party activists absorbed the losses yesterday, leader Mary Lou McDonald joined them in City Hall to get a sense of what went wrong.

Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD pictured at the count centre for Ireland South in Nemo Rangers, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD pictured at the count centre for Ireland South in Nemo Rangers, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

“We’re really disappointed that we haven’t managed to hold the new ground we made five years ago. On that occasion, the surge was for Sinn Féin. This time, the surge is for the Greens,” she said.

She paid tribute to the several councillors who lost their seats and the candidates who failed to breakthrough.

“I’m disappointed personally for the lads because they’ve worked very hard.

“But we’re still going to have strong representation here in Cork. We’ll still be up and at it.

“Obviously, we’ll reflect on all the lessons we need to learn from this. We’ll regroup and we’ll be back out again,” she said.

Ms McDonald said that there was no one reason Sinn Féin lost support, and she will listen to the local candidates in Cork and elsewhere to establish what went wrong.

It was a better day for Fianna Fáil across the country, but leader Micheál Martin said that he was disappointed with a relatively poor result on his own turf.

With David Boyle missing out on a second seat in South Central and Tim Brosnan projected to lose his seat in North West at the time of going to print, Fianna Fáil has reduced its City Council team from ten to eight.

That’s just one ahead of Fine Gael, which grew from five to seven.

Mr Martin said that the boundary changes hampered the party’s ability to strategise effectively, with his biggest regret being that Fianna Fáil failed to field a Glanmire candidate.

“You learn lessons from that and you move on and try and make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“We need to review our electoral strategy. We had the votes to win seats and didn’t.

“The expansion of the city cost us in terms of electoral strategy,” he said.

However, it was a good election for Fianna Fáil across the country, holding onto the recovery it made in 2014 and outpolling Fine Gael by about 2% on first preferences.

Mr Martin refused to be drawn over the weekend on the future of the confidence and supply agreement, saying that the local elections are not a barometer for general elections.

Although the Lord Mayor’s plebiscite might be defeated this afternoon, anti-government sentiment didn’t hamper Fine Gael much in the local elections.

With gains all over his Cork South Central Dáil constituency, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was very content yesterday evening.

“It’s been more than 20 years since a sitting government has gained seats in a local election. It’s more than modest gains in Cork.

“Nationally, Fine Gael will gain 10 to 15 seats. Half of those gains are in Cork.

“We have two extra in the city, and I think it will be five in the county.

“We had a bad election five years ago and we’ve bounced back from that. We now have representation in all city wards,” he said.

However, the party is heading into a rough week with the aforementioned plebiscite today, the probable loss of Deirdre Clune’s MEP seat in Ireland South, and a clear judgement against the government’s record on climate action.

Mr Coveney paid tribute to the Green Party, and said that Fine Gael is taking note of the party’s surge. He said that the government’s work in the Oireachtas climate committee will begin to come to fruition in the coming weeks.

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