Kildare profile: Will male-dominated council be challenged?
FF stalwart Seán Power a late addition to the ticket
The number of seats up for grabs on Kildare County Council has increased from 25 to 40 under local government reforms, which makes it easier for councillors to retain their seats, unless there’s a major backlash against the bigger parties.
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Fine Gael holds nine seats on the council, while Labour and Fianna Fáil both have six and Independents hold the remainder. Only two of the 25 councillors are women and both are Fianna Fáil members – Suzanne Doyle and Fiona O’Loughlin.
They are running again and should have no difficulty getting re-elected, although Ms O’Loughlin will be hoping her supporters don’t get her confused with Fine Gael’s new candidate Fiona McLoughlin Healy, who is running in the same electoral area – Kildare-Newbridge.
Ms McLoughlin Healy stands a good chance, as does another Fine Gael candidate, Mary Donnelly, who is steeped in the GAA and is also running in that electoral area.
Leixlip’s Catherine Murphy topped the poll in the 2009 local elections but relinquished her seat to fellow Independent Anthony Larkin when she was elected to the Dáil in 2011. Her town council seat was taken by another Independent candidate, Denis McCarthy, who will also be hoping to win a seat.
Kildare is losing its town councils in Athy, Leixlip, Naas and Newbridge under local government reforms that will abolish 80 town councils.
Blast from past
Kildare constituents got a blast from the past when it emerged Fianna Fáil stalwart Seán Power was returning to the political fray. He lost his Dáil seat in the great Fianna Fáil purge of 2011 and was a late addition to the Fianna Fáil ticket for the Kildare-Newbridge electoral area.
Meanwhile, his son Robert is testing the waters by running in Naas. Also keeping it in the family is Athy councillor Mark Wall, son of Labour TD Jack Wall. He is joined on the Labour ticket by Athy town councillor Aoife Breslin.
Kildare has never been a Sinn Féin heartland, but the party is aiming high this time, targeting all five electoral areas with seven candidates.
Labour town councillors Damien Molyneaux and Thomas Redmond have both defected to Sinn Féin, so it will be interesting to see how they fare.
Shane Fitzgerald is the Green Party’s sole candidate and there is also a big group of Independent candidates vying for seats across the county.
So what are the big issues in Kildare? All politics is local, and this became clear when the Leinster Leader went out canvassing with Fiona O’Loughlin in Newbridge’s Dara Park. The canvass was all about sewerage problems and foul odours.
The issue of wind farms is frequently raised around Rathangan and in west Kildare, while the proposed Eirgid power lines are worrying people in Athy and Kilcullen. Water charges are a major bone of contention.
Further south, there is much unhappiness in Monasterevin at the awkward redrawing of the constituency boundaries, which put it in the Athy area for local elections, but in Laois for general election purposes. It adds to the feeling that the town has been forgotten.