The thing about local councillors is that it can be hard to summon up any enthusiasm for voting for any of them when it comes to election times.
Local government in Ireland has been steadily decreasing in relevance for many years now. The actual powers that councillors have are very limited, and mostly to do with the general direction, and not implementation, of policy, with long standing civil servants arguably being of much greater importance to the whole process of local government. Councillors can decide how much money to spend on housing for example, but they have no actual authority over planning applications. Councillors aren’t exactly quick to point that out either – why would they – and will routinely offer the sun, moon and stars in their literature, along with expounding at length on national matters they haven’t the slightest hope of having an impact on. Some of them only have an eye for a general election run, others are actually running for higher office in this election cycle.
I find that choices in local elections better come down to other things. There is the informal role of councillors as middlemen between the public and the civil service: you want someone with authority, with know-how, with an affinity for your area/community and sometimes with experience of that civil service, someone who can lobby and campaign for change they themselves cannot implement easily. There is the way that councillors reflect the beliefs of their constituents: you want someone who isn’t going to nominate Peter Casey for President, as an example. And then there is the simple fact that local elections are essentially a large scale opinion poll that will influence national politics and direction.
I live in Cabra-Glasnevin, specifically in Ashtown (as is typical, the named parts of the constituency tend to just be one part of it) and my selection of candidates will be based on (and in no particular order):
If you think I’ve forgiven Fianna Fail yet, you’re dead wrong. Fine Gael could do with a proverbial kick up the hole too, and I still have no great rapprochement coming for Labour. I have softened on Sinn Fein a tad, but not too much, can respect the hard-left on certain points without taking them too seriously and still retain positive feelings for the Greens and Social Democrats. As for Independents, well, you have to take them one at a time.
Not necessarily in government, but I’m not voting for someone with zero record of political or community involvement.
-Reflection of personal beliefs
No racists, no social conservatives, no fantasy economics please.
You better be an environmentalist, and you better have some specific ideas for the area.
If you’re running for MEP at the same time as running for council, sorry, but that annoys the hell out of me. It isn’t a dealbreaker, but it does indicate someone whose attention is not going to be focused on local issues if elected on that level.
-Actual local issues
There’s the proposed Pelletstown Train Station, maintenance of the canal footpaths, continued housing development in the Ashtown area, the potential impact of BusConnects, etc
There are 18 candidates in Cabra-Glasnevin, fighting it out for seven seats. With that in mind, here are my top seven candidates:
Cllr Cieran Perry (Independent)
An experienced councillor with specific achievements to point at, no party affiliations I find distasteful and what appears to me to be a committed attitude to improving the local area and communities.
Neasa Hourigan (Greens)
I forgave the Greens a lot admittedly, but we’re in a time and place when environmental matters should be front and centre for every political party, but only one actually stands out on that score, and that is the Greens. Hourigan may not strike me as the most impressive candidate otherwise, but it doesn’t matter.
Stephen O’Loughlin (Independent)
A local Ashtown candidate. I believe a member of the Social Democrats, or used to be, but running as an Independent, perhaps because of Gary Gannon’s candidacy? I like the platform, and he seems like a like-minded fellow, if obviously inexperienced.
Sean McCabe (Independent)
Very focused on the Phibsborough area of the constituency (he even has different posters for there and the rest) but generally strong enough otherwise: equality, environmental and people focused.
Cllr Gary Gannon (Social Democrats)
Running for Europe at the same time, and seems to be treating local race as total afterthought, which is obviously not so good. But I like the SD platform, even if I note with concern the recent issues within the party. They could do with more of an electoral footprint, and Gannon seems like the kind of guy who should be at the top table.
Cormac Newton (Workers)
There are a few hard-left candidates, and I do want to throw some support to one of them. Newton has some good proposals for dealing with housing and renting difficulties, and seems a fair bit more locally focused than some other left candidates.
Cllr Seamus McGrattan (Sinn Fein)
A sitting councillor, and I’d like to give Sinn Fein a preference, even if it is only a distant one, over the other parties. I’m still not overly-fond of Sinn Fein, but I would put McGrattan this high.
As for the others, well Rita Harrold (Solidarity) is running for Europe and I don’t think has said word one about the locals, Labour’s three candidates (interesting to ask why they are running three?) are very unimpressive though I’m likely to give Aine Clancy and Marie Sherlock a high-enough preference relatively speaking (not so much Declan Meenagh, who I once knew socially, and wouldn’t consider councillor material), Fianna Fail’s two are repeated electoral failure Mary Fitzpatrick and legacy candidate Hannah Lemass, Sinn Fein’s Paul O’Farrell seems a non-entity to me, the same can be said for Colm O’Rourke and Siobhan Shovlin of Fine Gael, Inds. 4 Change’s Michael Kelliher simply doesn’t interest me and Sarah Louise Mulligan appears to be a (bad) joke candidate.
If you were to ask me who I think will get those seven seats, well Cieran Perry should top the poll. The main parties will take their share: Say at least one each for Fianna Fail (Fitzpatrick), Sinn Fein (McGrattan) and Labour (Clancy). Fine Gael don’t poll super well around here, and might miss out entirely. There’s room for at least one of the other left candidates I feel, and I suspect it might be Gannon. The constituency’s been redrawn since 2014, but Cabra-Finglas did return three Sinn Fein councillors then, so O’Farrell should fancy his chances. That leaves one, and I imagine that will be a transfer-dependent shoot-out between Lemass, O’Rourke, Shovlin, and Sherlock. If I was to be pressed, I suppose Lemass might join that slow Fianna Fail resurgence. That’s not to say that Harrold or Kelliher will not be involved, I just feel the others are more likely.
Coming next week, my thoughts on the MEP race.