Wexford profile: Water charges and property tax dominate council canvass
Concern in New Ross and Enniscorthy about pylons and GridLink
With the number of county council seats increasing by more than 60 per cent and a string of established names retiring, opportunity knocks for local election candidates in Co Wexford.
Hopefuls cited anger over financial burdens such as water charges and property taxes as a major talking point on the canvass. There is also frustration about joblessness, with a sense the Government and employment agencies are neglecting the southeast; and about the state of rural roads after a harsh winter.
Voters in New Ross and Enniscorthy are also concerned about pylons and the GridLink project, with the power station at Great Island near Campile central to the €500 million plan.
The number of seats on Wexford County Council is increasing from 21 to 34 following the boundary committee review.
The Enniscorthy, Gorey and New Ross electoral areas will elect eight councillors, with the Wexford district electing 10.
Three town councils (New Ross, Enniscorthy and Gorey) and Wexford Borough Council will cease to exist this summer as part of Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan’s local government shake-up, and Wexford voters will ultimately elect 26 councillors fewer.
Town council vote
Candidates are unsure if the loss of the town council vote will see parish rather than party politics having a greater bearing on who is elected at county level, and on vote transfers.
Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil took 75.8 per cent of first preference votes in 2009, and 19 of the 21 seats on the council, which Fine Gael and Labour have controlled since.
Independents Declan McPartlin and Padge Reck are retiring. Sinn Féin is running five candidates and will be at the forefront of the charge to add alternative voices to the council.
It has a chance of taking a seat in each electoral area, with Anthony Kelly (Wexford) and Johnny Mythen (Enniscorthy) seen as being very well placed.
Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin has a good chance in Gorey, as does Oisín O’Connell (New Ross) but he faces competition from former party colleague John Dwyer, who has joined Éirígí.
Independent TD Mick Wallace is endorsing a candidate in each electoral area but it remains to be seen if the tide that propelled him into the Dáil in 2011 can sweep in Annette Moran, Jane Johnstone, Pat Whitty and Alan Molloy.
Ger Carthy, an Independent candidate and son of the late councillor Leo, is tipped to do well in the Wexford district, as is community activist Mary Farrell in Gorey and Jackser Owens in Enniscorthy. People Before Profit is fielding Deirdre Wadding in Wexford and Séamus O’Brien in New Ross.
Labour, which won four seats in 2009, appears to be managing expectations with just six candidates going forward despite the increased number of seats. After difficult times in Government there are no guarantees for Labour but the Wexford electoral area has long been a stronghold and it should return two councillors there.
The 2009 poll topper, George Lawlor, is seen as a good bet and the seat held by the retiring Ted Howlin, brother of Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan, is up for grabs between Bernie Mullen and Joe Ryan.
Labour’s Robert Ireton should be returned in Gorey, and it will say a lot about where the party is if Martin Storey, an All-Ireland hurling championship winner in 1996, does not hold the seat he was co-opted into last year following the death of Pat Cody.
Having won 10 of 21 seats in 2009, Fine Gael sources hope to return at least 12 of 17 runners but say getting the transfers right between the large number of candidates will be critical. Its three Enniscorthy- based councillors are expected to be returned, and Pat Fitzharris is fancied to be elected alongside Larry O’Brien and Dennis Kennedy in New Ross.