The Government’s decision to go ahead with its shake-up of county council boundaries last week is likely to result in one of the most fascinating electoral tussles in decades.
Billed as one of the key strands designed to improve the workings of local democracy, the planned overhaul will see Longford’s allocation of county council seats drop from 21 to 18.
As revealed last year, town councils in Longford and Granard face the axe with Longford, Granard and Ballymahon forming a newly devised municipal district.
It means each electoral area is to be assigned 6 locally elected representatives with Drumlish forming part of a much changed Granard electoral area.
The mid Longford townland of Killoe is also added, meaning sizeable demographic changes for both of its sitting councillors Padraig Loughrey (FF) and Fine Gael’s Victor Kiernan.
One of the expected changes affecting the Longford division is the committees’s decision to include Newtownforbes, something which could have far reaching consequences for the likes of Cllr Gerry Brady and others.
“I got 100 votes in one of the polling booths in Newtownforbes the last time (2009), so it’s a big loss to me,” said Cllr Brady when contacted by the Leader on Monday.
He also revealed, should he receive a Fine Gael nomination next year, he will look to hold onto his seat by vying for election in the Granard area.
“When you have worked for an area so long as I have it is disappointing to see it suddenly disappear, but that’s life,” he continued.
It was a similarly downbeat Cllr Martin Mulleady who gave his reaction to last week’s changes over the weekend.
He said, despite being the top Fianna Fail vote getter last time out, his seat was now “up for grabs” when voters go to the polls next summer.
“It’s like losing in or around 160 votes,” said Cllr Mulleady in relation to the Newtownforbes redesign. “I have been extremely happy to represent the area for the past five years, but it’s going to leave Granard with six seats and that’s a massive area to fill. I just don’t feel that Drumlish will be able to elect two candidates.”
Changes affecting other strands of the county are just as dramatic. Boundary experts opted to switch Edgeworthstown from the Granard area to Ballymahon, leaving question marks over the political futures of local representatives, Frank Kilbride and Tom Victory.
“I’m down 300 votes straight away,” said a despondent Cllr Kilbride. The whole parish (of Edgeworthstown) all the way up as far as Rathowen has been taken from me. I’m absolutely devastated to tell you the truth. I am going to have to try and make that (300 votes) up in Colmcille and Killoe. I have an awful fight on my hands, I know that.” As Cllr Kilbride weighs up that prospect this week, his opposite number and fellow Edgeworthstown representative, Cllr Tom Victory said he would be seeking a nomination from Fianna Fail to run as a candidate in South Longford next year.
Question marks likewise hang over the futures of numerous sitting councillors in Cavan, with the county also being divided into three electoral areas with six representatives in each.
Unlike in Longford though, the number of councillors faces a steeper drop with 18 anticipated to be in place this time next year, down from its present compliment of 25.
Ballinagh based Cllr Winston Bennett is likely to do battle with another local and long time politician, namely Danny ‘The Gunner’ Brady, under a newly redrawn Ballyjamesduff electoral area.
Towns such as Arva and Ballinagh together with the villages of Kilcogy and Gowna occupy just four out of 28 locations boundary chiefs have assigned to the region.