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Local elections to test strength of parties, independents

Voters will go to the polls tomorrow to elect almost 1,000 local councillors in Ireland, with 949 city and county council seats to be filled across 31 local authorities, which are divided into 166 electoral areas.

The local elections will be a test of strength for parties and independents, and possibly give an insight into who will become candidates in the general election.

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.

Five years ago, Fianna Fáil retained its crown as the largest party in local government, with 279 of the party’s candidates elected after winning 27% of first preference votes.

Fine Gael were just behind on 25%, Labour won 5.7%, the Green Party got 5.5%, the Social Democrats won 2.3%, and Solidarity-People Before Profit was on 1.9%.

Independents won 19.6% of the popular vote in the last local elections.

Sinn Féin lost half their councillors in the 2019 election, with their support falling to 9.5% of first preference votes, giving them 81 councillors.

The trend was bucked nine months later when Sinn Féin won a record 37 seats in the General Election and 24.5% of the public vote.

But the party admitted it did not run enough candidates to capitalise on the surge in support it had attracted in that historic election.

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the party is contesting every local electoral area and running 335 candidates tomorrow.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that the local election will be “challenging” for his party, but did not accept that it was inevitable the party would lose council seats.

He warned that it would be “very foolish” to use the results of local and European elections to project the outcome of a general election, warning that there are different influences to each vote.

Fine Gael won 255 council seats in 2019, up 20 on 2014, and this election is the first test for new Fine Gael leader Simon Harris.

Off the back of a ‘Green wave’, the Green Party won 49 seats on councils in 2019, a substantial increase of 37 councillors on 2014, while Labour won 57 seats, up six.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan admitted that the “short-term thinking tides” on climate issues come in and out, but said the overall level of consciousness around the risks to our environment was “as strong as ever”.

“I think we might surprise people, I think we might actually do well,” he said.

The Social Democrats won 19 seats in what was its first local election in 2019.

The number of Solidarity-People Before Profit council seats fell from 28 to 11, Aontú and Independents4Change had three council seats apiece.

Limerick set to install first directly-elected mayor

In Limerick, for the first time, Irish citizens will elect their local first citizen, in what is seen as a test case for the rest of the State.

The mayor will take over a redesigned local government system, which will see many of the chief executive functions transferred over to the new elected post.

The changes come following Limerick’s 2019 plebiscite.

A total of 15 candidates are running for the mayor’s seat. They are:
Sarah Beasley of Aontú; Daniel Butler of Fine Gael; Independent Frankie Daly; Ruairi Fahy of People Before Profit; Laura Keyes of Rabharta; Brian Leddin of the Green Party; Independent John Moran; Caitriona Ni Chathain of the Socialist Party; Independent Helen O’Donnell; Elisa O’Donovan of the Social Democrats; Independent Colm O’Morain; Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Féin; Dee Ryan of Fianna Fáil; Conor Sheehan of the Labour party and Gerben Uunk of The Animal Welfare Party.

Deiric Ó Broin, a professor of public policy practice in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University (DCU), described the election as “groundbreaking”.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s election, he said it was “all to play for”, with no clear winner emerging in recent weeks.

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