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New Year brings changes to Mayo political landscape

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Cllr Christy Hyland is pictured with Independent TD Shane Ross at their meeting in the Wyatt Hotel in Westport last week.
TALKING POLITICS?Cllr Christy Hyland is pictured with Independent TD Shane Ross at their meeting in the Wyatt Hotel in Westport last week. ?Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Hyland considering options after formal General Election approach


New Year brings renewed action and rhetoric to Mayo politics

Neill O'Neill

SEISMIC changes could be looming for Mayo’s political landscape, with the first week of 2015 already bringing intense speculation and focus on the next General Election, not expected to be held until the spring of 2016. The New Year is not yet a week old and four of Mayo’s Independent councillors have been courted by Deputy Shane Ross, who is looking to form a ‘credible block of Independents’ that might get elected in the next General Election. Deputy Ross will then hope to lead those TDs into an agreement that will see them form part of the next Government.
Meanwhile, Claremorris-native Lucinda Creighton has launched an as of yet unnamed new political party (see Page 6), and is hoping to run a candidate in every constituency in Ireland, including Mayo. Her plans for her home county have not been revealed, but Mayo’s only Fine Gael County Councillor, Tereasa McGuire, [Deputy Creighton is actively seeking out female candidates and would be considered by many to be closely aligned with candidates from her former party] has categorically ruled out any potential move, in a strongly worded statement to The Mayo News.

New constituency
With the number of Mayo TDs being cut from five to four under the recommendations of the 2012 constituency report and speculation growing that Deputy John O’Mahony will run in Galway West (see page 6), which has taken an estimated 7,000 votes from Mayo with the redrawing of the boundaries, Independent councillor Christy Hyland held a 90 minute meeting with Independent TD Shane Ross in Westport’s Wyatt Hotel on December 29.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Cllr Hyland expressed his feelings that only one of the incumbent Mayo TDs seats is safe at present - that of Minister of State Michael Ring. Deputy Ring is likely to run in the next election which may make any attempt by Cllr Hyland a futile exercise as they share the same Westport heartland - but were Cllr Hyland to throw his hat in the ring - it would be a sickening blow to the local Fine Gael party, which he left after being unsuccessful at convention for the 2014 Local Elections.
Councillor Hyland made no secret of the fact that he felt ganged up on by other party members at that convention, and he went on to claim a council seat as an independent, at the cost of sitting Councillors Austin Francis O’Malley and Johnno O’Malley. This caused reverberations in the party locally, particularly when Cllr Hyland, who it was well known had the support of some local Fine Gael party members for the election, entered a political power sharing alliance in Mayo County Council with Fianna Fáil.

Options open
“I met with Shane Ross and it went well,” Cllr Hyland told The Mayo News. “I am considering my options and will see what way the wind is blowing after a period of reflection and some consultation with my family and supporters.
“Deputy Ross said I am a credible candidate for the next General Election and I am ruling nothing out at this point and will consider everything. He is not forming a new party, he is trying to get a group of credible independents to reach an agreement, and then is hoping to get them elected and form a Government. We didn’t discuss particular issues, we did discuss the four seats in Mayo and he firmly believes that an independent can get elected.”
Deputy Ross was in Mayo as part of a nationwide tour, drumming up support for his new block of Independent TDs from potential candidates he has identified for the next General Election. He also met with Councillors Michael Kilcoyne, Seamus Weir and Gerry Ginty in Mayo. Councillor Kilcoyne is seen as a particularly strong candidate were he to run in the election, having topped the poll by a massive majority in last May’s local elections. However,  it has been stated that no matter how wounded people may think Enda Kenny is in his Castlebar base, the Taoiseach has up to 14 months to rally public opinion behind himself and his party, and he has began in earnest, making promises even yesterday (Monday) of cuts to taxes. The next year will be a long one in politics for An Taoiseach, who as the longest serving member of Dáil Eireann, has repeatedly stated his intent to lead his party to form the next Government, and has resisted calls to step aside.
Gone from FG party
Councillor Hyland also stated that he would not give any consideration to what the Fine Gael party thought of him considering running as an Independent, saying: “I am gone from them now and the way the main parties have behaved, people are disillusioned with them. I am not worried about raising eyebrows in Fine Gael locally, I was always a community man and I am getting on with my life as I had to do after convention.”
He added that he feels the next General Election will leave Mayo as an ‘open field’ but with the caveat: “I feel Michael Ring’s seat is safe if he is to run, he has done the hard work, but all the other existing seats are vulnerable and are there for the taking. People are very disillusioned with the body politic.”

Loyal to FG party
ONE local councillor that will not be hitching onto any other bandwagon is Tereasa McGuire, who scoffed at questioning that she was fed up with Fine Gael and life on Mayo County Council. Rumours were abound that she may run for Deputy Creighton’s new party, to which her answer was: “Am I being connected with them because I’m female and blonde? What an insult, I have been a Fine Gael member all my life and will go to my grave a Fine Gael member. I have no idea of, and no inclination to find out what, Lucinda Creighton is at in Mayo, I remain loyal to my party. I have been a Fine Gael member for nearly four decades and it is like a family, we have our disagreements and difficult moments, but the loyalty remains.”
Councillor McGuire revealed that she finds life on Mayo County Council very different to that which she knew on Westport Town Council, but laughed at rumours that she may not see out her term.
“For sure the County Council is a different operation, it lacks the connectivity and intimacy of the town council and the mechanics of the operation are a whole new ball game, there is a disconnect that takes getting used to but the learning curve is ongoing. However, I gave my word when enlisting and so I’ll march, I am very privileged and thankful that people put their trust in me and I will honour that, I won’t be jumping ship mid-term.”