*Selected Fine Gael candidates, Cllr Joe Garrihy and Bill Slattery with Madeline Taylor-Quinn and Ciaran Cannon. 

FINE GAEL’s ‘grudge match’ in North Clare has been underlined as one of the “most interesting aspects” of the local elections in the county.

Nine candidates are vying to win the four seats in the Ennistymon local electoral area that the public will decide on when it comes to casting their votes on June 7th.

Sitting quartet, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), Cllr Liam Grant (GP), Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) and Cllr Shane Talty (FF) are facing competition from Michael Loughrey (IP), Pam O’Loughlin (IND), Conor O’Sullivan (SF), Bill Slattery (FG) and Denis Vaughan (LAB).

Ger Kennedy (FG) who contested the 2014 local elections in the West Clare Municipal District flagged the ballot paper is comprised of two Ennistymon candidates and three in Lahinch. “There is a lot of people in this general area looking for the votes, Pam O’Loughlin has come in from Ennistymon, Denis Vaughan is here as well, there’s an awful lot of people pulling out of the same cohort of voters so it will be very interesting to see. Bill has always done well in this area, he has a lot of supporters, he would have been very disappointed to miss out the last time having been a councillor for a few terms but that is the way it panned out with Joe Garrihy getting in. I don’t know how it is going to go this time round, that fourth seat is between any one of three people”.

Kennedy added, “Joe has been at the centre of many of the community issues over the past five years that have been happening, he’s had a very strong social media presence too, Bill has been a little bit out of the limelight so he needed to get out of the blocks early to let people know he is still very much involved and anxious to get a seat again but Joe has made a very good impression”.

Fianna Fáil Director of Elections, Gerry Reidy acknowledged that issues between Slattery and Senator Martin Conway (FG) in advance of the 2019 local elections was a factor. “Some people would think that there was behind the scenes issues going on and maybe Bill got caught by surprise. The difference between himself and Joe the last time, Joe had a very high profile because he did a huge amount of work for SeaWorld in Lahinch but there was still only 25 votes between them on the first count and they ended up with 70 votes between them on the last count, it was very close between the Fine Gael family of votes, Bill was very wounded the last time, 23 outgoing councillors went for the 28 seats the last time and he was the only one of the 23 not to make it so he was justifiably wounded. Like a lot of the LEAs in Clare it will come down to the work ethic of the candidates involved, Joe has a good platform built up”.

This Fine Gael battle according to Reidy “will be one of the most interesting aspects from the election, Bill might have got caught and have had other personal issues with health the last time but his style at the door, he comes across and engages with people, he does have contacts all the time and the influence he has which are the two key things for anyone canvassing, engagement and influence so he does that but so does Joe so it will be very interesting”.

He doesn’t think it will split the Fine Gael vote in North Clare. “They will be a bit more mature and won’t be as volatile as they were the last time, nobody wins in that situation, you get much more benefit from pulling in the one direction rather than keeping party politics going after the election, I think they learned from the last election”.

Speaking on The Electoral Chair, Reidy maintained that Cllr Liam Grant (GP) is under pressure to retain his place on the local authority. “This is his first time coming onto the campaign trail, he is a nice fella, he has done a good bit of work and he works well with the lads, he has the biggest challenge I think, we talked about some of the stuff and the impact of the Green agenda, people are very big to jump on the bandwagon.. Liam is up against it, if you look at all the candidates the last time you generally get all your vote from your locality, Joe Killeen got it from Corofin and Ruan, Shane Talty got it from Ennistymon, Lahinch and Miltown Malbay, it is the same all the way through, Bill Slattery is going in Lahinch and Liam is going to have a hell of a challenge, it will probably be a number of those candidates fighting for the last seat”.

Corofin based Kennedy pointed out, “Roisin (Garvey) went the last time but she was that bit away in Inagh, she would have resonated more with people in the Corofin area than someone based in Lahinch, we did have a bit of a Green base when Ann Marie Flanagan got a good vote, there was a residual Green vote which would have transferred to Roisin but there is a bit of a breakdown at the moment”.

Transfers from Noeleen Moran (SF) were central to the election of Garvey according to Reidy. “The influence the Garvey name had in this area was very important but on the last count for the last election, the difference in votes between Bill Slattery and Roisin was only a handful of votes. It is worth remembering but it is very hard to explain, Roisin got elected by getting 205 votes trasnfers from Noeleen Moran’s 575, that is the two opposite ends of the political spectrum, that was why Roisin got elected and Bill didn’t, there was only a few votes in it but the 205 votes from the transfers elected Roisin”.

An anti-establishment vote is likely to assist either O’Loughlin or O’Sullivan. “Pam’s big disadvantage is that she is very new to the scene, she had been living abroad and is only home in the last couple of years. I’ve read her material in relation to the election, she had been running for the Farmers Alliance but very little was to do with farmers, I was wondering if she was under the right umbrella. She might get an anti-establishment vote because there’s a lot of people out there who don’t like any of the main parties, a lot of them talk about voting but don’t bother voting, if they decide they could decide for Pam as a protest type candidate,” Kennedy said.

There is a big challenge for Vaughan to challenge the leading pack, Reidy said. “He was away for years and has been back for years, he has been effective, he had a challenge to get the Labour party’s branch up and running in North Clare but he has made a success of it. Like Sinn Féin, I think Labour’s support in North Clare isn’t as prominent as it was twenty years ago. I’d say he has a challenge, you need to get 1,000 votes, I’m not sure where he is going to get it and if he has a machine against him”.

In Corofin, the impact of Cllr Killeen has been evident according to Kennedy. “Joe touches into all the local organisations and is always willing to help, it is great to have someone local who is willing to support whatever the community is doing, we’ve been very happy to have Joe and I’d be amazed if he doesn’t sail in the next time, he covers all the geographic area which is vast when you take in Tubber, Boston, Ruan, Corofin and Kilnaboy, he has very strong family connections, he has a great network with the farming community, he was President of the INTO and is a great man to have in the area”.

Reidy pointed out, “He got 600 of his 1200 votes in the parish of Corofin and Ruan which says a huge lot about him, he was always very approachable, he brings some of the farming people with him”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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