All change in Leitrim as Independents and Sinn Féin surge

County turns away from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, reflecting national trends

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are likely to lose  seats in Leitrim County Council. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are likely to lose seats in Leitrim County Council. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The composition of Leitrim County Council has changed more at this election than in all the elections since Independence.

The success of four Sinn Féin and four Independents stunned even seasoned observers of a political scene where the default position for generations has been how Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael share out the seats among themselves.

Fine Gael lost Thomas Mulligan, a councillor of 29-years standing.

Party colleagues Enda McGloin, Gordon Hughes and John Ward also lost their seats.

Francis Gilmartin of Fianna Fáil blamed boundary changes for his defeat.

Sinn Féin’s Seadhna Logan won a seat in the Carrick-on-Shannon area for the first time since 1920, Padraig Fallon topped the poll in the Manorhamilton electoral area and the party also won two seats in Ballinamore.

One of the big winners was independent Des Guckian. The 66-year-old retired schoolteacher is the author of a book on Jimmy Gralton who inspired the film Jimmy’s Hall which will go on general release this week.

He polled just 281 votes in 2009.

He more than doubled his vote to 671 first preferences this time round.

He eschewed glossy posters and a social media profile; instead canvassing the old-fashioned way by visiting every house in the Carrick-on-Shannon electoral area three times.

He also benefited from the ‘Ming Tide’, being effectively Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s emissary in Leitrim and he shares much of Mr Flanagan’s anti-establishment, anti-EU rhetoric.

“People are being fed up being micromanaged by this Government, decent, honourable people being put in a situation where they can’t cut turf on their bogs,” he said.

“The Irish people are hostages in their own land in a time of depression.”