Cork City Council
was the only local authority area not to change in the constituency revision, this month’s local election for the council promises to be as hotly contested as any in the country with some 65 candidates vying for 31 seats.
Fine Gael replaced Fianna Fáil as the largest party on the council in the last election with eight seats (since increased to nine) and the party will seek to maintain its dominance, running 14 candidates – three more than Fianna Fáil who saw its seat numbers drop from 11 in 2004 to just six in 2009.
In 2009, Labour took its ever largest number of seats on the council when it won seven but with former lord mayor Michael Ahern retiring, the party will be doing well to retain its remaining six seats in the face of a strong campaign by Sinn Féin which is running eight candidates.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance, led by Socialist Party poll-topper Mick Barry, is running three candidates; the Green Party, spearheaded by former TD Dan Boyle, is running four; the Workers Party is fielding two and seven hopefuls are running under the People's Candidates banner.
National issues such as discretionary medical cards, water charges and property tax are dominating on the door steps and Labour, to judge from the opinion polls, is getting the blame for much of these.
Labour is fighting a rearguard action in Cork and the challenge its candidates now face is similar to that facing Fianna Fáil in 2009 with the party hoping the work done on the ground by sitting councillors and their own personal vote will insulate them from the general antipathy to the party. Such is the case in Cork North East where former lord mayor, Labour's John Kelleher, is likely to be in a fight for one of the last two seats with Workers Party veteran Cllr Ted Tynan, and Sinn Féin neophyte Stephen Cunningham, who is hoping to take a seat for the party in the four-seat ward.
Fianna Fáil's sole candidate, Tim Brosnan, is assured of a seat here while Fine Gael will comfortably retain the seat won here in 2009 by Darragh Murphy TD with his co-opted replacement, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, perhaps more likely than running mate Sue- Ellen Carroll to hold the seat.
In Cork North Central, Mick Barry of the Socialist Party will comfortably hold his seat as will Sinn Féin's Thomas Gould, leaving Fianna Fáil's Cllr Ken O'Flynn and Dr John Sheehan, Fine Gael's Cllr Pat Gosch and Donncha Loftus and Labour's Cllr Catherine Clancy all vying for the last three seats.
Although Labour will be under pressure, Clancy should benefit from a high-profile year as lord mayor of Cork while O’Flynn and Gosch as incumbents should shade it over their running mates to leave no change in the five-seat ward.
North West proves to be even more intriguing with Sinn Féin councillor, Mick Nugent – who replaced party colleague Cllr Jonathan O'Brien upon his election to Dáil Éireann – and Fianna Fáil sole runner, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, both looking safe for the first two seats in the four seater. Sinn Féin is running a second candidate in Ken Collins and the final two seats are likely to be between him, outgoing Fine Gael councillor Joe O'Callaghan and former Labour lord mayor, Cllr Mick O'Connell, who may benefit from the plethora of Independents which is likely to fracture the protest vote.
In Cork South Central, Labour's councillor Lorraine Kingston had a huge vote in 2009 with more than 25 per cent of first preferences and even allowing for a drop in Labour support, she should hold on while Independent Mick Finn and Sinn Féin's councillor Fiona Kerins should also be elected.
Outgoing Fine Gael councillor Emmet O'Halloran is joined on the ticket by photographer Billy McGill and Micheál Martin's brother, Seán, a sitting councillor, is joined by former councillor Tom O'Driscoll on the Fianna Fáil ticket while Independent Paudie Dineen could also put in a strong showing.
In Cork South West, Fine Gael will take at least two seats through poll topper, Cllr John Buttimer and either PJ Hourican or Barry Keane while Fianna Fáil will gain a seat here through former councillor, Fergal Dennehy, who will join sitting councillor, Mary Shields, back in Cork City Council.
Sinn Féin councillor Henry Cremin will hold his seat leaving Fine Gael's third candidate vying for the sixth seat with sitting Labour councillor, Ger Gibbons, who will be hoping to pick up the vote of his retiring party colleague, Michael Ahern, who is stepping down along with Fine Gael veteran Brian Bermingham.
In Cork South East, fellow Fine Gael veteran, Jim Corr, is also retiring but Cllr Des Cahill and Cllr Laura McGonigle will hold the party's two other seats while Fianna Fáil's Cllr Terry Shannon should also take a seat along with Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy and Sinn Féin councillor Chris O'Leary.
That leaves Fine Gael's third candidate, Derek Cregan – son of former senator Dino – Fianna Fáil duo of Kate Martin (daughter of Seán Martin) and Nicholas O'Keeffe, Sinn Féin's Shane O'Shea , Labour councillor Denis O'Flynn and Dan Boyle of the Greens all battling it out for the last two seats.
In the final analysis, Fine Gael is likely to more or less hold what it has, Fianna Fáil may gain one or two while Sinn Féin and the Independents may also gain, most likely at the expense of Labour which appears more vulnerable, particularly in working class areas, to an anti-government backlash.