Political Transformation of Tramore / City West

Lola and Kevin O’Sullivan.

Lola and Kevin O’Sullivan.

Throughout the country, Local Election 2014 hammered home a message of voters’ anger to the political establishment – and none more so than in the newlyformed Tramore/ City West electoral area, where a number of sitting party representatives lost their seats. After a tiring 12 counts which ran late Saturday night and until almost 5pm on Sunday, voters elected three Independent representatives, along with one Sinn Féin, one Fine Gael and one Fianna Fáil member: Poll topper Joe Conway, a former Mayor of Tramore and member of the town’s Council, increased his 2009 vote of 778 to take 960 first preferences last Friday. He continued to pick up a steady stream of transfers throughout the count, particularly following the elimination of fellow Tramore representative Maxine Keoghan in the fourth count. Following his election, on the 8th count, Conway described his election strategy: “For one thing, I didn’t poster. I never put up a poster in my life. I don’t believe in them, I believe they eviscerate democracy. I did a ball park figure on the amount spent on posters in Waterford and I believe it’s in the region of €100,000. In rough terms, that’s enough to transform for mobility ten housing units for people who badly need it. It’s such a waste of money.” Given his relatively small election team, made up of his wife Sandra, some family members and friends, Conway said he devised a ‘green, red and orange’ scheme for canvassing: “it was an extremely big area to cover so we split the area into a red, green and orange section. Green was the area we knew we could canvas to maximum effect, orange was the area we knew we could have limited success in and then red was the area we knew we would be wasting our time on. We were a very small group compared to other candidates. But they were superb, we beat the socks off everybody with the success of our canvas.” Independent candidate Monica Melay and the Worker’s Party’s Brian Hearne were the first to be eliminated in this area, late on Saturday night and they were followed by fellow Independent Jenna Keane, Fine Gael’s Maxine Keoghan and Independent Pat Finnerty. Outgoing city-based councilor Dick Roche lost his seat in the 5th count on Sunday morning, after seeing his share of first preferences fall from 626 in 2009 to 346 last weekend. Labour’s Dee Jacques, who took up the seat of longtime councilor Pat Hayes 16 months ago, went next. She thanked the people who had given her 392 first preferences but acknowledged that a lot of that was a personal vote, rather than a vote for the Labour Party. Asked would she consider running again in future elections, she said she would definitely remain a member of the Labour Party but was unsure how active she would be from herein. Next to go was outgoing Fianna Fáil councilor Pat Daly, who transfer of 194 votes to party colleague Eamon Quinlan brought the latter firmly into the game. Long-sitting Workers Party representative, the Ferrybank-based Davy Walsh, lost his seat in the 9th count. Walsh’s share of first preferences had dropped from 535 in 2009 to 409 this time out. Sinn Féin’s Davy Lane was the next out of the race, after polling a strong 472 first preferences. Sinn Féin’s Jim Griffin took massive 364 transfers on the elimination of Davy Lane, bringing him above the quota in the 11th count. Jim said he wouldn’t be ‘going over the top’ with the celebrations. “I don’t do excitement. I saw too much hardship on the doorsteps here and people don’t want to see us going bananas over a seat. I’m even uncomfortable standing here in a suit today. You’ll rarely see me in a suit again. He said the water and household charges were important issues raised on the doorstep throughout his canvas, but noted that many Waterford people had more pressing daily concerns. “What people are raising is bread and butter. I spoke to one girl who had a fry for her Christmas dinner. I got such a shock, but she said ‘it’s so long since we had a fry, it was a treat’. People literally don’t have bread and butter, it is that bad for some. Pot holes outside their door don’t bother a lot of people because they haven’t a car to drive into the potholes.” The four remaining seats in the area went on the 12th count following the elimination of Independent Ann Marie Power and Fine Gael’s Hilary Quinlan, whose family has been represented on the Council for several generations. Quinlan suffered a huge loss of votes, from 963 in 2009 to 566 last Friday. Joe Kelly, who was narrowly pipped by Walsh to take the last seat in his area in 2009, saw his first preference go from 552 in 2009 to 716 last weekend. The former Sinn Féin councilor ran as an Independent this time. Lola O’Sullivan (FG) and Ann Marie Power (formerly FG, who ran as an Independent) were almost neck and neck in 2009, with 855 votes and 849 votes, respectively. Though Power pulled in more first preferences last Friday, she was eventually beaten on transfers and O’Sullivan took the fourth seat in the area. Fellow Tramore-based politician Blaise Hannigan remained one of the most transfer-friendly candidates throughout the long count and he took the fifth seat. Hannigan, who, along with Sean Reinhardt and Seamus O’Donnell, is a member of the Dáil’s Independent Network of politicians supported by local TD John Halligan said he would be working closely with Reinhardt and O’Donnell on local issues within the new Council. “And we’ll be all the time liaising with John Halligan to advance Waterford on a national level”, he added. The final seat went to newcomer Eamon Quinlan, for Fianna Fáil, who said he was ‘ecstatic’ at the result. “I’m a young man that has been clearly chosen to support the people of Waterford. The fact that I got transfers from all candidates says to me that I really got through to people on the doorsteps and they’re happy to entrust the future of Waterford in the hands of a strong Fianna Fáil opposition that is coming through.”

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