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Ballina Fine Gael contest hots up

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Ballina Fine Gael contest hots up as Walsh re-enters in South Mayo


Edwin McGreal


The battle for Fine Gael nominations to contest this year’s elections in the Ballina electoral area looks set to be fierce.
Ballina will be an eight-seater area following local election changes but eight strong candidates are putting their name forward for the Fine Gael selection convention this Saturday, meaning a battle is certain for candidates to even get their name on the election ballot.
Last week’s news that outgoing Cllr Joe Mellett will stand again ensures a strong candidate in Swinford while this week’s news that Foxford Fine Gael have unanimously nominated well-known publican Neil Cruise ensures a strong option there too.
Outgoing councillors Seamus Weir, John O’Hara and Jarlath Munnelly are strong candidates in their respective areas of Knockmore, Bonniconlon and Killala.
The retirement of Cllr Eddie Staunton, a councillor for 33 years, leaves a vacancy in Crossmolina where local community activist Anthony Walsh and well-known GAA officer Padraig Staunton, a nephew of Eddie Staunton, will likely be facing a tight battle with each other for what will certainly be only one nomination going in the Crossmolina area.
There is one candidate based in Ballina town running, current town councillor, Cllr Mark Winters, who could be in a good position because of his location in the large urban area.
Fianna Fáil have already held their convention for the Ballina area. Running for them will be Cllr Jimmy Maloney (Foxford), Cllr Annie-May Reape (Bonniconlon), Eamon Moore (Killala/Ballycastle), Johnnie O’Malley (Ballina), Michael Smyth (Swinford) and Michael Loftus (Crossmolina).
Ballina-based Cllr Gerry Ginty (Independent) told The Mayo News he is putting his name forward for election.
Meanwhile, Kilmaine-based publican Harry Walsh will stand as an Independent in the Claremorris Electoral Area.
Mr Walsh, who was a councillor from 2004-09, lost his seat last time out. He argues that his immediate area has been poorly served without political representation.
“There’s enough votes in Kilmaine and Shrule to elect a councillor and if the areas always voted together, there’d always be a councillor in the area. However for 16 of the last 21 years there has been no councillor in the area.
“People don’t see the advantage of a local councillor but councillors spend most of whatever allocations they have in their local area. If you’ve no councillor, you won’t get that.
“Ballinrobe town needs strong representation too and I don’t think, that is there either currently,” he said. It is a clear barb at existing councillors in the area.
Mr Walsh also argued that the old Ballinrobe electoral area will be in the next Dáil area of Galway West and it is important that there is strong local representation in the area on Mayo County Council.
Fine Gael have four councillors standing in the new seven-seater Claremorris electoral area. They are all outgoing councillors, Cllrs Michael Burke, John Cribbin, Tom Connolly and Patsy O’Brien.
Fianna Fáil have four candidates standing, Cllr Damien Ryan, John P Kean, John Caulfield and Seamus Caulfield.
Sinn Féin’s Cllr Gerry Murray and Independent Cllr Richard Finn are also standing in the area, meaning there are eleven candidates for seven seats so far.