Roads and housing exercise the voters


Only two members of Cork Corporation - Mr Pearse Wyse, one of the founding members of the Progressive Democrats, and Mr Ted McCarthy - will not be contesting next week's local elections. Every other outgoing member of the 31-member council will be in the field on June 11th.

On Cork County Council, which has 48 members representing the largest county in the State, 11 sitting members are not putting their names forward again. A total of 73 candidates are running in Cork Corporation's six electoral areas.

Fianna Fail has nine seats on the corporation. Two TDs - Mr John Dennehy and Mr Noel O'Flynn - are outgoing councillors who are running again, and a third Fianna Fail TD, Mr Billy Kelleher, is hoping to join them in the new council.

In the Cork North East electoral area, Mr Kelleher will be facing the sitting Fianna Fail councillor, Mr Tim Brosnan. Mr Brosnan has been a vocal opponent of what he describes as double jobbing - TDs also holding seats on local councils - and he says his stance is being supported on the doorsteps.

Mr Brosnan believes the Fianna Fail campaign in the city is going extremely well and there are positive signs for the party. "I expect we will hold our own on the council," he added.

According to Mr Dan Boyle of the Green Party, who is also national director of the local government campaign for the Greens, crime is not a serious issue in this local election, and on the doorsteps he has encountered a lot of apathy.

"It seems as if many people are not too interested and unfortunately, that may signal that younger people are no longer seeking to get involved in local politics. The crime figures in Cork have been dropping for the past two years and that may be the reason for crime dropping off the agenda as a major issue. The issues we are encountering include traffic control and the housing role of the corporation and how it is dealing with lengthening housing lists, as well as the very role of the local authority."

Mr Boyle said in each of the city's six electoral areas, the Green Party had decided to run a candidate and there was a realistic expectation that two or more Green candidates, including himself, would take seats on the city council.

Things to watch for in the Cork Corporation election include the return to the ring of Fine Gael TD Mr Bernard Allen, who resigned his corporation seat in 1995 after being appointed a junior minister. He is putting himself forward once again in Cork North Central where 11 candidates will contest five seats. On the face of it, Mr Tom Considine, who was co-opted to replace him in 1995, seems likely to lose out this time.

Ms Deirdre Clune TD, the daughter of the former Fine Gael deputy leader, Mr Peter Barry, is widely expected to take a seat in Cork South East, where 12 candidates are running.

According to Labour's Ms Kathleen Lynch, who was a TD from 1994 to 1997, roads, footpaths and care of the elderly are the major issues on the doorsteps. Ms Lynch has moved from Cork South Central back to Cork North Central, which elected her in 1994.

Outgoing members of Cork County Council who are not running this time are: Mr Eddie Lucey (FG, Bandon); Mr Sylvester Cotter (FG, Cork South); Mr Carey Joyce (FF, Fermoy); Mr Conor O'Callaghan (FG, Mallow); Mr Paddy Hegarty (Ind, Midleton); Mr Matt Ahern (FG, Midleton); Mr Donncha O'Sullivan (FF, Skibbereen); Mr Michael Calnan (Lab, Schull); Mr Michael Pat Murphy (Ind, Schull); Mr Michael Harrington (FG, Schull); and Mr Ted O'Riordan (FF, Mallow).

There are 96 candidates for the 48 seats. The lowest number of candidates seeking election is in Macroom, where five people will contest three seats. The highest number is in Midleton, where 15 will go forward for six seats.

Fine Gael TD Mr Simon Coveney has been persuaded by his party to stand for the county council, rather than Cork Corporation.

Mr Michael Pat Murphy (Ind), a son of the former Labour TD of the same name, has decided to retire from local politics, having first taken a seat on the council at the age of 21. He is now 35, and has become somewhat disaffected with local government. "In the past few years this has become almost a full-time job. I have a young family and I'm farming as well and it has become more and more difficult to deal with everything," he said.

"But aside from that, I am concerned about the fact that ever since I joined the council we have been promised meaningful local government reform. It has never happened and we have few powers and even fewer discretionary funds to help local communities."

One of the longest-serving members on Cork County Council is Mr Jack Roche of Fianna Fail, who has been there for 22 years. He has been vocal over the years on the county development plan for Cork, which restricts ribbon development in outlying areas and which, he claims, may harm the potential for local people to build homes in their own areas.

He represents the Duhallow area of North Cork - one which is experiencing serious rural decline. The electoral area is dominated by major county towns such as Newmarket, Kanturk and Millstreet. "Down here, you won't hear much talk about the county development plan because people have other concerns. In parts of this place the population has declined by as much as 10 per cent. The Celtic Tiger in Duhallow is only something we read about. More and more graduates are being produced but there are no employment opportunities. The youngsters have to go elsewhere and - I've been saying it for years - successive governments are equally guilty because they have not made the effort to bring decent jobs to areas such as ours."

Mr Roche said in his travels throughout the county, every community had its local concerns, mainly about jobs and the state of the roads, but there were no overriding or powerful issues dominating this local election.