LINES REDRAWN The new Mayo Constituency map. Click on link at end of article to download larger version.
Could there still be five Mayo TDs?
Patsy O’Brien in pole position to launch bid for seat in Galway West
Michael Duffy & Michael Commins
THE dramatic redrawing of the constituency boundaries, resulting in Mayo dropping back to a 4-seater, has presented Fine Gael in Mayo with a massive headache. But, incredibly the party could still hold four Mayo based deputies after the next election ….if Patsy O’Brien can take a seat in the new Galway West which will now incorporate a sizeable slice of South Mayo.
While almost all of the focus in political circles has been on the plight facing Mayo’s four sitting Fine Gael TDs in the new scenario, party workers in the former Ballinrobe Electoral region (now incorporated back into the Claremorris 6-seater) were slowly coming to terms with the fact that they have been ‘severed off’ from the homeland and now find themselves adrift in a constituency that includes the Aran Islands. It’s a long way from Garrymore to Inisheer … but both areas will now be served by the same five TDs.
“The whole thing has come out of the blue for us. We never envisaged that such a large part of South Mayo would be transferred to Galway West. It doesn’t make sense at all,” a party worker told The Mayo News at the weekend.
“People from Headford are now voting in Galway East while those across the bridge in Shrule end up in Galway West. People in Garrymore close to the Milltown border are now in with Galway city and the islands. If they were in Galway East with Milltown and Dunmore and Kilconly it would make some sense.
“It some ways, it presents an opportunity to Patsy O’Brien. He’s the only person based in Mayo that I could see making a serious challenge for a seat in Galway West. He got a massive 2,700 first preference votes in the Council Elections three years ago. Around 1,700 of that was achieved in the area that is now transferred to Galway. His party colleague Michael Burke in Ballinrobe picked up around 1,100 or 1,200 in that same area while Harry Walsh (Ind) from Kilmaine and a former Fine Gael man got over 1,000 in that region. You are talking around 4,000 in that pool. Patsy would also pick up a local vote from all sides on top of that. That would put him in the running for a seat.”
Interestingly Cllr O’Brien would not be able to vote for himself in Galway West were he to run as his home village of Robeen remains in the Mayo constituency.
Fine Gael scraped a second seat in Galway West in last year’s General Election when Moycullen based Sean Kyne edged out independent Galway city councillor Catherine Connolly by just 17 votes. Brian Walsh took the first seat for Fine Gael. Derek Nolan (Labour) and Eamon O Cuiv (FF) were the top vote getters while Noel Grealish (Ind) easily won the other seat.
“If Patsy gets the Fine Gael nod, his nearest opposition will be Eamon O Cuiv behind in Corr na Mona. O’Brien is sure to pick up Fine Gael votes beyond Ashford and Clonbur and further back. Michael Ring will also ensure that he gets votes around Leenane and that region. The redrawing certainly opens up an opportunity for him whether he wants to go for it or not is another matter,” said the Fine Gael activist.
The new Mayo 4-seater presents a massive challenge to Fine Gael in the Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s home constituency. Presuming that all four will want to contest again, it is beyond doubt that the party will not be able to retain their four seats. Dara Calleary, who is enjoying a high profile, looks set to retain a seat for Fianna Fail even though he will certainly have at least one colleague on the party ticket with him next time out.
Westport’s Michael Ring has lost most votes in the transfer of the South Mayo region to Galway West. However, one would have to favour both Ring and Kenny to retain their seats. That leaves the battle between John O’Mahony and Michelle Mulherin. One possible answer to the problem is for Fine Gael to nominate John O’Mahony to run for the European Parliament in two years time should outgoing MEP Jim Higgins decide to call it a day. O’Mahony has a strong GAA reach in Galway and Leitrim since his days managing both teams and is well placed at the heart of the sprawling North West Constituency. Other than that expect some serious internal quarrels in FG circles in the run-up to the next General Election.
Meanwhile Cong-based Fianna Fáil member of Mayo County Council, Cllr Damien Ryan, said the reaction he has encountered was of ‘utter bemusement’.
“All I can say is that it is a very sad day for the people of Mayo,” said Cllr Ryan. “The third biggest county in Ireland will now be served by two TDs less than it was just two decades ago. This a direct hit once again at rural Ireland. There are neighbours now in the parish of Hollymount who will be represented by TDs in different constituencies.”
A total of nine electoral divisions formally in the Mayo constituency will now become part of the same constituency as areas like Galway City and Clifden and the Aran Islands. These areas are Ballinrobe, The Neale, Cong, Houndswood, Shrule, Dalgan, Kilmaine, Kilcommon and Garrymore. Collectively, these areas have a population of over 10,000.
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