TWO sitting councillors are among the 10 hopefuls seeking election in Bantry’s four-seater constituency.
Fine Gael’s Cllr Mary Hegarty – the only female politician currently serving on the West Cork Municipal District – is stepping down, so the party will try to geographically maximise her vote in an area that was traditionally a three-seater.
Katie Murphy from Schull – who is the daughter of the late Cllr Michael Pat Murphy and granddaughter of a former Labour TD – and John Dinneen from Kealkil have been placed on the Fine Gael ticket alongside former county councillor, mayor, and TD, Noel Harrington from Castletownbere.
Fianna Fáil’s Patrick Gerard Murphy, who is enjoying a high profile as county mayor, is seeking re-election. He has been joined on the party ticket by newcomer George Gill.
Sitting councillor, Danny Collins (Ind) is standing for re-election, but another Independent hopeful, Beara’s Finbarr Harrington, will be hoping to take the seat he failed to secure in 2014.
Two more first-timers include the Social Democrat, Holly McKeever Cairns, who had a high profile during the Repeal the Eighth campaign, and Dunmanway’s Lorraine Deane Ross who is standing on the Aontú ticket.
Skibbereen native and Sinn Féin candidate, Donnchadh Ó Seaghdha, is well known, having previously served on Skibbereen Town Council, but he is standing in the Bantry area, which now comes within 9km of Skibbereen town centre.
The predictions are that Danny Collins, brother of the Independent TD Michael Collins will take the first seat, followed closely by Katie Murphy, the youngest candidate in the field.
The fight for the last two seats is expected to be between three men: Patrick Gerard Murphy, Noel Harrington and Finbarr Harrington – all of whom will be drawing heavily on their Beara connections.
The election in West Cork has a ‘back to the future’ vibe about it because the historic Bantry and Skibbereen electoral areas are being re-introduced under the boundary changes.
In 2014, West Cork was one area but, geographically, it was considered too broad in terms of political representation.
As part of the boundary commission’s mathematical exercise to balance representational ratios – so there would be one elected representative for every 5,000 or 6,000 citizens – the population was reduced from 56,892 to approximately 52,500.
Bantry’s population base was increased to approximately 22,400, which means it will now have four elected representatives instead of three, thereby returning one politician for every 5,600 citizens.
This was achieved by moving the dividing line marginally at the northern side of the constituency but more significantly along the eastern dividing line with Skibbereen. It means Aughadown North and South – which are less than 9km from Skibbereen – are now attached to Bantry.
Both Bantry and Skibbereen electoral areas will, however, come under the West Cork Municipal District for the purposes of administration and service delivery.