Local elections 2019: Green wave sweeps over Fingal as poor turnout hits Sinn Fein and Independents

by Sylvia Pownall

Things are looking a lot greener in Fingal than they did a week ago as the Green Party more than doubled its quota of council seats in Friday’s elections.

The party now holds five seats, with three gains by Joe O’Brien in Balbriggan, Ian Carey in Swords and Daniel Whooley in Ongar.

Castleknock candidate Cllr Roderic O’Gorman (GP) was the third-highest poll topper in the country, with a whopping 3,731 first-preference votes.

The 35-year-old law lecturer told Dublin Gazette: “I’m out canvassing all the time and from about nine months ago people started bringing up plastic and the environment.

“Then, after Christmas, they started bringing up climate change. That reached a crescendo over the past two weeks.

“I think there was also recognition for me as I’m doing this for 15 years and this is my ninth election. But I was really shocked with the final tally – I never expected that.”

Fingal’s mix of urban and rural areas and an 8% cent increase in population to 296,020 people resulted in significant boundary changes, with the number of Local Electoral Areas increasing from five to seven.

The dismal 42.3% turnout saw the Greens make the biggest gains, followed by the Social Democrats and Fine Gael. Sinn Fein, Independents and Solidarity-PBP suffered the worst defeats.

Party trend

Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnelly bucked the party trend by topping the poll in Ongar, and Breda Hanaphy gained a seat in Blanchardstown, with Natalie Treacy clinching the final seat in Castleknock and Ann Graves scraping in in Swords by a margin of just two votes.

But Cllr Malachy Quinn lost his Sinn Fein seat in Balbriggan, as did Daire Ni Laoi in Howth-Malahide.

Cllr Donnelly told Dublin Gazette: “It was a very low turnout, which hurt us. A job of work needs to be done by all of us to ask why people are so disconnected from their local authority and the electoral system.

“Part of the problem is that local authorities have stripped the responsibilities and powers that councillors have. That renders us in people’s eyes as pretty much useless.

“We can’t even look at a live planning application like we used to at an area meeting. People see that there’s very little we can do – that is something we will have to address.”

In Balbriggan, where sitting Cllr Tony Murphy (Ind) topped the poll and Green candidate Joe O’Brien came in second, it was obvious from the first count that Malachy Quinn would struggle to retain his seat.

He posted online after his elimination, stating: “I am proud to have served as a Sinn Fein councillor and played my part in the Our Balbriggan strategy … I am very worried about the make-up of the new council as it does not reflect the interests of the ordinary people of Fingal enough.”

Solidary-People Before Profit also suffered losses, with Matt Waine and Sandra Kavanagh both losing their seats in Dublin 15, and Eugene Coppinger defeated in Swords.

The party now holds just one seat in Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart where newcomer John Burtchaell was elected.

Mr Waine posted: “It is a very disappointing and sad day for me personally, but the struggle continues. We lost out for a number of reasons; the low turnout in working class areas, which amplified the so-called Green Wave, and the boundary changes.

“I do not feel bitter; elections are never easy terrains for Socialists and revolutionaries.”

Fianna Fail’s Eoghan O’Brien, a brother of TD Darragh O’Brien, topped the poll by a considerable margin in Howth-Malahide, where there were no changes with the exception of Daire Ni Laoi (SF) losing out to Fine Gael’s Aoibheann Tormey.

New ward

In the new ward of Rush-Lusk, Rush Cllr Robert O’Donoghue topped the poll with 1,982 votes and was elected on the first count. Labour’s Corina Johnston narrowly missed out as the other four seats were filled by sitting councillors.

In Swords, Darragh Butler (FF) topped the poll with his running mate Brigid Manton also elected along with two other new faces – Ian Carey (GP) and Dean Mulligan (I4C).

Cllr Butler said: “I could never have dreamed of achieving 2,298 first-preference votes (18.9%), topping the poll and almost 1,000 votes ahead of second placed.

“Out of the 40 Fingal councillors over the seven electoral areas, there will be 14 first-time councillors.

“Now it is back to work.”

In Swords, Anne Devitt and Justin Sinnott did not stand for re-election, while Fine Gael’s Emer Currie took the seat vacated by retiring Cllr Eithne Loftus in Castleknock.

Fingal’s first Indian-born councillor, Punam Rane, was elected for Fine Gael in An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Dublin West constituency.

The 49-year-old technology company owner and former investment banker from Mumbai won her seat in Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart, bringing the party’s seat total to seven, up from six.

Labour’s Mary McCamley, who topped the poll in the five-seater Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart LEA, said she was “delighted and honoured to be chosen by the people again to represent them”.

She told Dublin Gazette: “This is a very diverse area both in population and geography and with very different needs and concerns.

“We certainly need more houses, but we don’t need them at any price. We need to build communities and not just transitory housing – developers are now allowed to build as high as they like, it seems, and as small as they like.

“Developments over 100 units have been taken out of the hands of local authorities and put into the hands of An Bord Planala – local democracy is being savaged. First it was the waste, then the water, now planning.”

Who is my local councillor?

Balbriggan (5 seats): Tony Murphy (Ind, 1st count); Joe O’Brien (GP, 7th count); Seana O Rodaigh (Lab, 9th count); Tom O’Leary (FG, 9th count); Grainne Maguire (Ind, 9th count).

Rush-Lusk (5 seats): Robert O’Donoghue (Lab, 1st count); Adrian Henchy (FF, 10th count); Brian Dennehy (FF, 10th count); Cathal Boland (Ind, 10th count); Paul Mulville (SD, 10th count).

Swords (7 seats): Darragh Butler (FF, 1st count); Dean Mulligan (I4C, 8th count); Ian Carey (GP, 8th count); Duncan Smith (Lab, 11th count); Joe Newman (Ind, 13th count); Brigid Manton (FF, 14th count); Ann Graves (SF, 14th count).

Howth-Malahide (7 seats): Eoghan O’Brien (FF, 1st count); David Healy (GP, 1st count); Cian O’Callaghan (SD, 1st count); Brian McDonagh (Lab, 1st count); Jimmy Guerin (Ind, 2nd count); Aoibheann Tormey (FG, 3rd count); Anthony Lavin (FG, 4th count).

Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart (5 seats): Mary McCamley (Lab, 1st count); Breda Hanaphy (SF, 7th count); Punam Rane (FG, 8th count); John Burtchaell (Sol-PBP, 8th count); Freddie Cooper (FF, 8th count).

Castleknock (6 seats): Roderic O’Gorman (GP, 1st count); Emer Currie (FG, 1st count); Ted Leddy (FG, 3rd count); John Walsh (Lab, 3rd count); Howard Mahony (FF, 6th count); Natalie Treacy (SF, 8th count).

Ongar (5 seats): Paul Donnelly (SF, 1st count); Tania Doyle (Ind, 5th count); Tom Kitt (FF, 9th count); Kieran Dennison (FG, 9th count); Daniel Whooley (GP, 9th count).

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