It may not be the most exciting prize in the world to be a local councillor but that did not deter many familiar, even celebrity faces, from entering the fray to become local authority councillors in the upcoming elections on June 5th. Also in the race are a few sitting councillors who have been damaged by the widespread coverage of dodgy planning and zoning decisions across the country since the last poll in 2004. Being accused at the Flood/Mahon tribunal by disgraced lobbyist Frank Dunlop of accepting bribes, has not embarrassed south Dublin Councillor Tony Fox (IND) from standing in the Dundrum ward of Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown again, although the revelation did conincide with Fox being taken off the Fianna Fáil party ticket. Fox denies Dunlop’s claim as “fantasy”.
Athlone’s John Butler is another councillor who had contact with Dunlop when the lobbyist sought his support for Owen O’Callaghan’s Golden Island retail centre in the midlands town in 1994. The unflattering Butler has come up with the novel idea of not putting up any posters for his campaign on the grounds that they only litter the town. In east Galway Michael ‘the Stroke’ Fahey has not let his conviction for abusing council funds get in the way of his ambitions, while in the west of the county councillor Josie Conneely has made himself unpopular with locals after lands around his hotel the Rock Glen in Clifden, were re-zoned by his colleagues against the advice of the county manager.
Across the country the scions of sitting and former TD’s have dipped their toes in the political waters in the hope of continuing their family dynasties. Ivor Callely’s son, Ronan, is something of a poster boy in the Clontarf area, while Andrew McGuinness, son of John, has been spotted with his campaign van parked in a disabled parking space in Kilkenny. Across the border in Tipperary, Michael Lowry’s son, Micheál, is heading a list of no less than nine Lowry candidates in the county, while in Cork Noel O’Flynn’s son, Gary, is hoping to retain his seat on Cork city council.
Hoping to benefit from their fraternal association with big names are Fianna Fáil candidates Jim O’Callaghan (brother of TV star Miriam) and Garrett Tubridy (brother of Ryan) who can be seen wandering around Rathmines. Poor frère Tubridy cannot have been pleased with a blogger to Politics.ie who said his wife thought the candidate looked about 14 and had an IQ to match.
Perhaps the most unfortunate candidate is Drogheda based independent, James Carey, who had his canvassing interrupted when he was arrested and charged with recklessly discharging a firearm in 2001 when he shot the wife of a Garda in the backside in Gormanstown with a pellet gun as a seventeen year old. He is due to appear in court on polling day over charges which he claims are, you guessed it, “politically motivated”.
Bill Carey is hoping to retain his seat on Meath County Council although he might get the bum’s rush if he ventures near Longwood where he is unpopular over his support for a new road unwanted by local residents, but which would open up lands for housing owned by local developers. Carey is no relation of the gun toting Drogheda man but he is the father of Irish Times columnist Sarah Carey who only a few weeks ago wrote of her disappointment that auctioneers like her old man would not have any role with the proposed National Asset Management Agency in valuing lands controlled by the banks.
Other candidates who have had brushes with the law in the distant past include Frank McBrearty junior who is standing for Labour in Donegal, and Mannix Flynn, an independent in the south inner city of Dublin. McBrearty was wrongly accused by corrupt gardai in Donegal of involvement with the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron in 1996, while successful actor Mannix was once arrested in connection with a fire that engulfed a large hardware store in the city, Dockerells, when he was a boy. He had suffered horrendously at the hands of brutalising clerics in industrial school Leitir Frac.
There are hundreds of pretty faces among the thousands of candidates hoping to get on the first rung of the political ladder and a couple of lookalikes: Brian Greene of the Socialist Party standing in Howth is a dead ringer for Dougal of Father Ted fame and Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun Laoghaire is unmistakably his mother’s son, the actress Sinead Cusack.
“In Tipperary, Michael Lowry’s son, Micheál, is heading a list of no less than nine Lowry candidates in the county”.
In Marino first time candidate Helen McCormack of Sinn Fein is hoping to put her years of experience trying to keep the health service afloat to good use, and to test the durability of Finian McGrath’s local organisation in the process. John Wolfe is running in Fingal for the Seniors’ Solidarity Party and is targeting the ‘grey vote’ which makes up an influential 17% of the electorate, and is hugely exorcised over the withdrawal of medical cards among other issues.
There is a plethora of independents in the race including a number in a crowded Galway city field. Here A J Cahill, Danny Callinan (former SF), and Catherine Connolly (former Labour), are aiming to capitalise on anti-government sentiment.
With the polls indicating a strong swing from Fianna Fáil it is all to play for in the coming weeks as the thousands of candidates crowd the country’s highways and byways – as well as the lamp posts – looking for votes. Truly it is an election race for the good, the bad, and the ugly.