TEAM EFFORT Pictured at the Sinn Féin seletion convention for the upcoming local election were, from left: Cllr Joe McHale, Natasha Ward, Claire Kerrane (Roscommon candidate), Cllr Gerry Murray, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, Michael Regan, Cllr Teresa Whelan and Cllr Mairéad Farrell, Galway.
Fianna Fáil choose Belmullet/Achill candidates
Anton McNulty and Michael Commins
Sinn Féin say they expect to run candidates in each Mayo electoral area in May’s local elections, with the candidate in the Westport Electoral Area expected to be named in the next two weeks.
The party held their local election convention in the TF Royal Hotel in Castlebar on Sunday afternoon with candidates named to run in five of the six electoral areas. Sitting councillors Gerry Murray, Joe McHale and Teresa Whelan will run in the Swinford, Castlebar and Belmullet Electoral Areas respectively, while Claremorris school-teacher, Natasha Ward will run in the Claremorris Electoral Area, and Killala native Michael Regan will run in the Ballina Electoral Area.
A candidate for the Westport Electoral Area has yet to be chosen with up to four people expressing an interest in running for the party. Among those who have expressed an interest is Tara Bleeks, the current chair of the party’s Mayo Comhairle Ceantair, who is also the regional organiser for the Standing4Women campaign, a grassroots movement formed following the Cervical Check scandal.
The party are expected to meet locally to try to decide on a candidate but if an agreement is not reached, it will go to party members to vote on.
Sinn Féin currently has three sitting councillors in Mayo County Council but only Cllr Murray was elected at the last election. Cllr McHale was co-opted in February 2018 to replace Therese Ruane while Cllr Whelan replaced Rose Conway-Walsh when she was elected a senator in 2016.
Cllr Murray told The Mayo News the party was looking to hold onto their three seats and build on the 2014 local elections.
“Ideally we would like to build on the three councillors who we have at the moment but we are taking nothing for granted. We are happy with the candidates we have selected to run in the elections with two new young candidates in Claremorris and Ballina and confident they will make an impact,” he said.
Natasha Warde, who is a member of the teaching staff at Múire gan Smal Primary School in Claremorris, hails from a well known family in the town. Her parents, Greg and Ann, operate the well known pub and restaurant at the corner of The Square. The family have deep roots in Claremorris stretching back over the decades.
She is looking forward to the challenge with enthusiasm. “This is my first foray into the election scene and it will be a whole new experience for me. There are a lot of issues out there that I will be addressing over the coming weeks. I know from speaking to people that a lot of them feel that the rural areas are not getting the resources that they do in other parts of the country.
“Older people are feeling very isolated and this is a massive issue in so many parts of the country right now. There is very little public transport and this is leading further to rural depopulation.
“Schools are closing, post offices are closing and pubs are closing and communities are being impacted hugely with all these changes. We need protection for small towns and villages. Smaller farmers in the western region are struggling to make a living. Farming is crucial to the economy and needs all the support it can get.”
Carey in race for FF
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil have selected two candidates to run in the Belmullet Electoral Area with sitting councillor Paul McNamara from Achill joined on the ticket by Belmullet-based Seán Carey.
Both men ran for the party in the 2014 local elections with Cllr McNamara winning his seat in the seven-seater Westport Municipal District. Boundary changes since 2014 has seen the municipal district divided into Westport and Belmullet Electoral Areas with only three seats up for grabs in the Belmullet Electoral Area compared to four in Westport.
There was very few votes between Carey and McNamara in 2014 with Carey receiving 1197 first preference votes and McNamara receiving 1351. Carey was edged out on the 12th and final count which saw McNamara elected without reaching the quota.
Three sitting councillors - McNamara, Teresa Whelan (SF) and Gerry Coyle (FG) - are all running in the Belmullet Electoral Area for the three available seats and it is expected to be one of the fiercely fought contests in the county.
Current Independent councillor Michael Holmes, who is from the same electoral area, is stepping down at the end of the current council term.