ELECTIONS 2019: New dawn for Kilkenny County Council, but status quo remains
By SHANE DORAN
NATIONALLY, the story of the 2019 local elections was undoubtedly the so-called ‘Green wave’ that swept across the country, with Sinn Féin the biggest loser in the shake-up of our local authorities.
In Kilkenny, councillor Malcolm Noonan rode the crest of the wave, recording the second highest vote in the city behind poll topper Andrew McGuinness.
Locally, Fianna Fáil was the big winner, taking almost half the 24 seats on the new(ish)-look local authority. The party has come in for some serious criticism – in no small part from its own Kilkenny TD John McGuinness – for the controversial confidence and supply deal that is keeping the minority Fine Gael government in power. But any fears of a backlash from voters in Kilkenny soon dissipated as the first counts filtered in.
Pat Fitzpatrick set the tone in Castlecomer, topping the North Kilkenny poll with an impressive 2,249 first preference votes. Cllr McGuinness followed suit in Kilkenny city, while Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere and Matt Doran were the early frontrunners in the Callan-Thomastown electoral area.
Government parties usually get a good kicking in the mid-terms so Fine Gael – coming on the back of a series of damaging controversies, from the National Children’s Hospital cost overrun scandal to a compo case involving a TD that couldn’t keep both hands on a swing – won’t be feeling too disappointed.
Local TD and Minister of State John Paul Phelan, also his party’s Director of Elections for the local elections, will be reasonably happy with Fine Gael’s performance locally, where they captured a third of the overall seats.
As was the case nationally, it was a disastrous election for Sinn Féin, who no longer have a single councillor on the local authority. Labour will be content with two seats after Denis Hynes hung in to take outgoing Cllr Maurice Shortall’s seat in Castlecomer to join his party colleague Tomás Breathnach on the council.
Disappointingly, there is a serious gender imbalance on the new council, with just three successful candidates – one for every eight men – making the final cut, newcomer Deirdre Cullen’s battle for the final seat in Callan-Thomastown coming at the expense of sitting Independent Breda Gardner.
Her defeat at the last count means there is now just one Independent on the local authority, although Eugene McGuinness’ election on a very right-wing platform may see some interesting exchanges at council meetings over the coming months.
There are some new faces on the council, but the vast majority of those elected are sitting councillors. And with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael accounting for 20 of the 24 seats, dissenting voices who challenge the status quo face an uphill battle to push their agenda in a distinctly ‘old school’ political arena.
Kilkenny County Council 2019 – Your 24 Elected Members
Andrew McGuinness (FF)
Malcolm Noonan (Green)
Joe Malone (FF)
David Fitzgerald (FG)
John Coonan (FF)
Eugene McGuinness (Independent)
Martin Brett (FG)
Pat Fitzpatrick (FF)
Mary Hilda Kavanagh (FG)
Michael McCarthy (FF)
John Brennan (FG)
Michael Delaney (FF)
Denis Hynes (Labour)
Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere (FF)
Matt Doran (FF)
Michael Doyle (FG)
Patrick O’Neill (FG)
Joe Lyons (FG)
Deirdre Cullen (FF)
Pat Dunphy (FG)
Tomás Breathnach (Labour)
Eamon Aylward (FF)
Fidelis Doherty (FG)
Ger Frisby (FF)