Local elections are notoriously difficult to predict due to the lack of local polls. Anecdotal evidence, gut feelings and a loose translation of national polls is pretty much all we have to go on. Nonetheless we all like to have a go. Just don’t go betting your house on it.
Fine Gael held 4 seats here from 1999 to 2009. However, the field is very much changed now and it would seem unlikely with a raft of new candidates that they can emulate those days. Still, this remains the best stomping ground for FG. Sean Farrell and Paul Ross should both be safe bets. There remains a third seat between Colm Murray and Gerrard Farrell. I’d have to give Murray the nod. This in turn means that Mark Casey should still poll well in Lanesboro, probably ensuring that he retains his Independent Seat. Fianna Fail will rely on Mick Cahill to poll well guaranteeing them a seat. A second seat will fall to either Victory or O’Toole. The Ballymahon town vote could be upset if Niamh Moran can perform well as an Independent and could see O’Toole go out, granting the seat to Victory. However, O’Toole will expect that he can hold the Ballymahon town vote that Barney Steele harnessed for so long.
An epic battle is afoot in North Longford. PJ Reilly, Martin Mulleady and Micheal Carrigy should all take seats. Frank Kilbride will hope to take a seat but if so it will come at the cost of his running mates Paraic Brady, John Duffy and Maura Kilbride Harkin.
The 5 candidate strategy of FG really risks spreading their vote too thinly. If Sinn Fein is to take a seat in Longford then the Granard area would seem the best bet historically and given national polls they could do it. However, James Keogh and Marry Lillis may suck up an independent and disaffected vote that could hurt SF. Keogh may just have enough in the tank to see him over the line. That leaves the mother of all battles for the last seat. It really could be too close to call but a tempting bet would be Luie McIntire pulling off a great escape and giving FF a very important 3 seats in Granard.
The town area can be very unpredictable and with the entry of some high profile former town councillors it makes this an intriguing battle. You can bet the house on Peggy Nolan taking her seat again. Padraig Loughrey has lost a significant portion of his vote in the constituency carve up so he may not be quite as safe as 2009. However, he is a very strong campaigner and should take his seat too.
Mae Sexton has had her ups and downs but her vote in and around Longford town tends to remain loyal. It would be a brave man who would bet against her securing a seat. John Browne and Yvonne Ni Mhurchu will need each other’s help to take a seat but there is one there between both candidates. Gerry Warnock and Tony Flaherty will both hope that their town council profile can aid their chances, but the Independent vote is very spread out here. Paul Connell has the profile and experience to hoover this up. Sinn Fein could get a strong vote in the town, but may just struggle with the level of organisation the other candidates have at their disposal. If Connell secures the seat, that leaves two FF candidates gunning for the last seat.
Michael Connellan and Seamus Butler certainly have a seat between them. However, 3 seats for FF seems a stretch so they will need one or other to be eliminated. Connellan is running for the County Council for the first time despite his profile and Butler narrowly lost out in ‘09.
It may be close but I’ll opt for Butler to take the seat.