Fine Gael to dominate majority of councils


FINE GAEL will dominate the leadership of local authorities for the next year, with the majority of city and county councils electing Fine Gael mayors and cathaoirligh over the past week.

While some of the State’s 34 city and county councils have yet to hold their annual meetings, Fine Gael will lead at least 18 local authorities.

Several county councils held their elections yesterday, with Dublin City Council, the State’s largest local authority, electing Labour’s Andrew Montague as Lord Mayor.

The city council is the last of the four Dublin local authorities to elect a new mayor. Labour mayors were elected last week in South Dublin and Fingal, with Caitríona Jones and Gerry McGuire taking the top spots respectively. Fine Gael’s John Bailey was elected cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Fine Gael councillors were yesterday appointed to head several local authorities. Kerry County Council elected unopposed Tim Buckley, a councillor from the Listowel electoral area. He replaces Labour councillor Pat Leahy, from the same electoral area. The election of a north Kerry councillor as mayor for the second year in a row solidifies the shift in power in the council chamber from the south county.

Over the past decade the mayoral chain regularly went to councillors in the south of the constituency, coinciding with the Fianna Fáil government supported by Independent Kerry South TD Jackie Healy-Rae, and when Kerry South TD John O’Donoghue was a minister.

A Fine Gael councillor described by colleagues as a “dogged and determined fighter for the people of Limerick” was last night elected the 815th mayor of the city. Jim Long’s election was secured after former party colleague, Independent Councillor Kevin Kiely, supported the other members of Fine Gael, which has seven seats on Limerick City Council.

Fine Gael Mayors were also chosen yesterday in Sligo County Council with the election of Michael Fleming as cathaoirleach, Laois County Council where John Bonham was elected, and Leitrim County Council, which elected John McTiernan as cathaoirleach.

Part of a former Fine Gael dynasty, but sitting as an Independent, Michael Lowry – son of controversial former minister Michael Lowry – was also unanimously elected mayor of North Tipperary last night.

The Independent councillor, who has been an elected representative for the last seven years, continued the Lowry name on the local authority going back to 1979, but is the first in the family to achieve the title “first citizen” of the county.

The triumph of Fine Gael is down to the successes of the party and of Labour in the 2004 local elections, followed by an even greater consolidation of power in the last local elections in 2009 which saw more gains for both parties.

Since 2004, most councils where the parties hold power have alternated the mayoralty on an annual basis, with last year’s Labour mayors in most cases now handing over the power to Fine Gael for the 2011/2012 council year.

Fianna Fáil, which held tight control over many local authorities until the end of the dual mandate, has thus far had just three mayors elected. Last week Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon was elected Lord Mayor of Cork City.

In Offaly, Danny Owens was last week elected as cathaoirleach of the county council, a position he had filled following the election of then chairman Barry Cowen to the Dáil in February’s general election. Fianna Fáil’s Séamus Coyle was last week picked to head Monaghan County Council.