Carrick-on-Suir Town Hall
The election race in Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District will be one of the most intriguing contests in this county and also the most difficult to predict.
But what is certain is at least one of the outgoing six councillors won't be returning to the Co. Council chamber in June.
A significant redrawing of Carrick-on-Suir MD's electoral boundary by the Boundary Commission has reduced the district from a six-seater to a five-seater. This means six of the 11 candidates in the race will fail to win the holy grail of a council seat.
The Carrick-on-Suir MD election comprises two internal contests. The first is Carrick-on-Suir town where there are two outgoing councillors David Dunne (SF) and Kieran Bourke (FF) and three candidates, all former Carrick town councillors Margaret Croke (FG), Sarah Dunne (Lab) and Pierce O'Loughlin.
The second is the rural area contest where there are four outgoing councillors Imelda Goldsboro (FF), Louise McLoughlin (FG), Kevin O'Meara (Ind) and Mark Fitzgerald (FG) and two candidates vying to replace them, Sinn Fein's Joanne Ivors from The Commons and Workers and Unemployed Action Group candidate Michael Cleere from Killenaule.
The loss of the electoral divisions of Kiltinan, Colman, Tullamain, which includes Rosegreen, Kilcash, which includes Ballypatrick to the Clonmel Borough Division will impact most on the rural councillors.
The loss of the seat is expected to hit one of these public representatives as Carrick-on-Suir town will probably return two councillors again.
Carrick-on-Suir councillors, however, have pointed out they also received significant vote in places like Kilcash, Killurney and Ballypatrick in the 2014 race.
Another major factor in this race is the death of two popular veteran councillors Eddie O'Meara (Ind) from Mullinahone and John Fahey (FG) from Killenaule in the past 15 months. Both served on the Co. Council for nearly 20 years and their huge loss to local politics was marked by outgoing Carrick-on-Suir MD chairperson Cllr Louise McLoughlin in her closing speech at the district's last monthly meeting before the local elections last Friday.
The late Cllrs O'Meara and Fahey have been replaced by a new generaetion of local politicans, Kevin O'Meara, the late Cllr O'Meara's son, and Mark Fitzgerald from Cloneen, whose late father Noel contested the 2014 election for Fine Gael.
Kevin O'Meara was co-opted onto the Council last September while Mark Fitzgerald was co-opted only in January. How both will fare with the electorate of Carrick Municipal District will be one of the most interesting aspects of this race?
There has been a concerted campaign in Mullinahone to support local man Kevin O'Meara. Local people staunchly regard his seat as Mullinahone's council seat.
The late Eddie O'Meara received about 600 first preference votes from the Mullinahone area in the 2014 election, which was more than half his overall first preference vote. If Kevin can retain a good chunk of that vote it will go a long way to assisting his chances of retaining the seat.
He cautions that while his late father's name has helped him a lot meeting voters on the doorsteps, the family name still only goes so far. He stresses he is still regarded as a new councillor and at the end of the day people will vote for him as a public representative in his own right.
Twenty-seven year-old Mark Fitzgerald is the Municipal District's youngest councillor and candidate, a factor that should make him an attractive candidate with the electorate particularly younger voters. He is hoping to build on the vote his late father Noel Fitzgerald received in 2014 as Fine Gael's fourth candidate in that race and harness some of the Fine Gael votes secured by the late Johnny Fahey as well as snapping up votes in the communities around his Cloneen base.
As Fine Gael is running the most candidates of any party in the race, he should also benefit from transfers from any candidates elected or eliminated before him.
His FG colleague Cllr Louise McLoughlin from Ballinure will also be aiming to secure the support of former councillor Johnny Fahey voters. She has just finished her year-long term as Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District's chairperson, which will have helped to raise her profile around the district.
She points out though that she is badly affected by the loss of some of the electoral divisions to Clonmel District, particularly the Rosegreen area, where she topped the poll in 2014. Overall she estimates the boundary change has cost her between 160 to 180 votes before she starts. The adverse impact of the boundary change is a concern raised by many of the other candidates.
Fianna Fail Cllr Imelda Goldsboro, meanwhile, polled the second highest first preference vote in the 2014 Carrick MD race and was the second candidate elected. Since 2014, Cllr Goldsboro has been chosen as one of the three Fianna Fail candidates to contest the next general election.
This is an added pressure on her in the local election as she is striving to maintain or better that 2014 first preference vote not just get re-elected in a much tighter race minus a council seat.
This time round, Cllr Goldsboro also has a rival candidate on her doorstep, Joanne Ivors from The Commons, who is Sinn Fein's second Carrick MD candidate.
As a new candidate, it is hard to predict how Ms Ivors will perform. Her running mate David Dunne secured a substantial rural vote in 2014 despite being from Carrick-on-Suir. Will she capture some of his rural vote and will she impact on neighbouring Cllr Goldsboro's polling? Will many of her transfers go to Cllr Goldsboro or will they transfer mostly to Dunne as Sinn Fein voters are noted for voting first for their party candidates?
Workers & Unemployed Action Group candidate Michael Cleere is also a native of The Commons but living in Killeanule. The former councillor ran for Labour in the 2014 election and was the first candidate to be eliminated.
He moved to Seamus Healy's left wing political group as he was disillusioned with Labour and angry at how he felt the party treated him as a candidate in 2014.
In Carrick-on-Suir, the town's outgoing councillors David Dunne (SF) and Kieran Bourke will be difficult to beat though they are up against competition from three other candidates from the town.
David Dunne topped the Carrick MD poll in 2014 with 1398 first preferences, partly helped by a nationwide voter swing towards Sinn Fein, which is not expected this time round. He was also the only Sinn Fein candidate running in the municipal district that time. Will the running of a second Sinn Fein candidate boost or impact on his personal vote?
Kieran Bourke ran as an Independent in the last election and was the fourth of the six councillors elected. Cllr Bourke has since rejoined Fianna Fail and he and Cllr Dunne have worked well together on the Council in representing their home town, which had nine councillors before the local government reforms.
An improvement in the Fianna Fail vote nationally in the local elections nearly a decade after the party's dramatic slump may benefit him and Cllr Goldsboro.
Fine Gael candidate Margaret Croke will be the most serious contender of the three former town councillors snapping at the outgoing Carrick councillors' feet. The publican and nurse is Fine Gael's third candidate in the district and as well as striving for a good Carrick town vote she will be hoping to hoover up Fine Gael votes in Carrick-on-Suir's large rural hinterland that was former Grangemockler FG councillor Joe Brennan's heartland. He narrowly missed out on retaining his seat in 2014.
Labour's young candidate Sarah Dunne has made a welcome return to local politics. She was just 21 years-old when she was co-opted onto the former Carrick Town Council in 2011. She didn't contest the 2014 election but remained very involved in Labour and is the party's only candidate in Carrick MD in this election. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact she makes in this race.
Independent candidate Pierce O'Loughlin is a late entrant to the race. The outspoken owner of Carrick-on-Suir's Three Counties Newspaper time was the second candidate eliminated in the 2014 election. It's hard to see him improving on his vote in this election or posing any real threat to the outgoing councillors.