Who are all the newly elected Independents?

Opinion: Many of the Independent councillors were endorsed by their local Independent TD


One of the most prominent questions arising from the results of last week’s local elections is: who are all these Independents?

A detailed answer to this query will require further research but Alan Kinsella of @electionlit has done some initial research on the background of these Independents based in part on the campaign literature they published.

Of the 949 councillors elected last weekend about 225 of them can be described on the ballot paper as Independents or small-party candidates.

Kinsella’s work and other research suggests, however, that they can in no way be seen as a homogeneous group.

This grouping includes 14 candidates from People Before Profit and 12 Green Party councillors.

There is another dozen or so who represent very small parties or local political groups. These include the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group (with which the Independent TD Seamus Healy is associated) which won one seat, the Workers Party, which has one councillor in Cork, the United Left Alliance, which has one councillor in Dublin city, Republican Sinn Féin, which has a councillor in Galway, and the South Kerry Independent Group, which won one seat.

Many of the Independent councillors are connected to or at least were openly endorsed by their local Independent TD.

There is one in Dublin city supported by Finian McGrath. There are two Independent councillors in Donegal openly backed by Tom Pringle. There are three councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and one in neighbouring Dublin South County who were backed by Shane Ross.

In Wicklow one of the councillors elected was backed by Stephen Donnelly; in Waterford two councillors were backed by John Halligan; and no fewer than three of Kildare’s incoming county councillors were backed by local Independent deputy Catherine Murphy.

A surprisingly large number of the Independent councillors were either former Fianna Fáil councillors or one-time prominent members of the party. There are at least 35 former Fianna Fáilers among the Independents, about half of whom broke with the party just before this election.

Topped the poll

In Wexford outgoing councillor Martin Murphy, who topped the poll in the New Ross area, left Fianna Fáil in January. Anthony Connick, another Independent elected in the same area, left Fianna Fáil just three weeks before the election. He is a brother of former Fianna Fáil minister of state Seán Connick.

In the Enniscorthy area John O’Rourke, a one-time Fianna Fáil member, was also elected, while in the Gorey area Mary Farrell was elected. She was set to contest the Fianna Fáil convention last January but withdrew and ran instead as an “Independent and Community” candidate.

There are other councillors elected last weekend from what might be called the wider Fianna Fáil “gene pool”.

Independent deputy

Two of those elected to Kerry County Council were backed by local Independent deputy Tom Fleming, and two councillors were also elected from the Healy Rae clan-cum-political-machine.

Two former Independent TDs from the Fianna Fáil “gene pool” were also elected, namely Joe Behan in Wicklow and James Breen in Clare.

Mattie McGrath TD, formerly of Fianna Fáil, had two councillors associated with his now Independent constituency operation elected in Tipperary.

In addition, I count at least 17 former Fine Gael councillors among the Independents. This figure includes two candidates supported by Denis Naughten in Roscommon, and one backed by Lucinda Creighton in Dublin city.

In addition to these 17 are three councillors elected to Tipperary County Council by Michael Lowry’s organisation.

Six of the Independent councillors elected were formerly of the Progressive Democrats, three in Galway.

There were also at least 10 former Labour councillors elected as Independents. These included Tom Fortune in Wicklow, who resigned from the party last year, and Dermot Looney in South Dublin, who left Labour a few months ago.

Even this initial glance at the make-up of the Independent and smaller party councillors illustrates what a diverse group they are. It will be interesting to watch how they interact with each other and with the four main political parties as the power struggle for chairmanships and other council positions begins.

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