A good election for Progressive Democrats
After the poor performance in the 24 May 2007 general election, falling from 8 TDs to a mere two, it was widely expected that the Progressive Democrats would soon fold. This did eventually occur, when a motion was passed at a special conference on 8 November 2008 to start winding down the party. It was the right decision, and I voted that way myself, but what held the party together so long was the strength of local politicians across the country. There were not that many, but they were strong in their areas, and their performances in the local elections across the countries and across parties, or as independents, is a testament the strength there was in the party.
Below I’ve listed as many of those who were members of the Progressive Democrats at the time of the general election who contested these local elections that I could think of, sorted by their current affiliation. If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know.
Fine Gael had always been seen as the closest party ideologically to the Progressive Democrats, with a certain group of voters who would move between the two at different elections, contributing to the poor showing of Fine Gael in 2002 and ultimately to the demise of the Progressive Democrats after 2007. It was to be expected then that a large contingent of councillors or former candidates would contest this election for Fine Gael. Of these were:
- Rose Brennan, who had been elected to the Bruff Ward of Limerick County Council in 2004. Her husband, Sen. Michael Brennan had been a member of Fianna Fáil until shortly the 2004 election, when they left to join the PDs. She joined Fine Gael around the time of the vote to disband the Progressive Democrats was reelected this year.
- Sirena Campbell came in 11th place for five seats in Slane LEA in 2004, contested a bye-election in 2005 and the general election in 2007. This year she was elected to the second seat in Slane.
- Tony Delaney became the fourth PD to hold the seat in the Clondalkin Ward of South Dublin County Council. Colm Tyndall was elected in 2004, replaced by Gerard Cullen in 2006, who was replaced by Alan McGaughey in 2007, to be replaced in turn by Delaney in September 2008. He went on to come second in the poll and elected now in his own right.
- Cait Keane was first elected in 1991 for Terenure, then in 1999 and 2004 for the Terenure-Rathfarnham Ward of South Dublin County Council. This year, she topped the poll in the reduced ward of Rathfarnham, reelected on the first count.
- Moegie Maher, who replaced Ciarán Cannon in the Loughrea Ward of Galway County Council when he was appointed as a Senator, was elected this year in his own right.
- Mary Mitchell O’Connor, elected for the PDs in 2004 for the Dún Laoghaire Ward of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. She joined Fine Gael in December 2007, and this year was reelected, while the third Fine Gael councillor Tom O’Higgins failed to hold his seat
- Barry Saul, who was co-opted to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for the Stillorgan Ward in 2003 to replace Fiona O’Malley after the dual mandate for Oireachtas members was prohibited. He contested the 2004 election as a sitting councillor, but came fifth in the three-seater. This year he was elected, topping the poll and effectively replacing his party colleague, the sitting councillor Louise Cosgrave.
Of course, as government colleagues since 1997, and as the party where most of the original members came from, Fianna Fáil was a natural home for others from the PDs. Of course, this was a poor year for Fianna Fáil, so one might assume that it might have been a mistake to have joined, but it was not generally the case. Those who contested this year were:
- Ben Doyle contested Ballyfermot in Dublin City Council in 2004, Dublin South-Central in 2007 and Ballyfermot-Drimnagh in 2009, failing to be elected on any of these occasions.
- Jim Hickey failed to be elected either to Limerick City Council either in 2004 for the Progressive Democrats or this year for Fianna Fáil.
- Paul McAuliffe, who came sixth in first preferences in 2004 in the four-seater of Finglas and was not elected, contested the new five-seater Ballymun-Finglas Ward and was elected on the ninth count.
- Richie Molly, was recently Lord Mayor of Clonmel. He contested the 2007 general election for the party, and moved to Fianna Fáil in August 2008. He was elected this year to the last seat on seven in the Clonmel Ward of Tipperary South Riding County Council.
- Mags Murray was elected to the third seat of four to the Castleknock ward of Fingal County Council in 2004, and was again reelected this year, this time to the fourth seat.
There was one councillor who joined a party other than the main two, Leonard Hattrick, a member of Ardee Town Council, who joined Labour in the summer of 2008. He again failed to be elected to Louth County Council, but was re-elected to the Town Council.
There were also many former Progressive Democrats who didn’t fit comfortably into any other party, so ran as independents. These again performed well.
- Victor Boyhan lost out on the last seat in the Blackrock Ward of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2004 by a handful of votes, and this year was elected to the last seat of four.
- Jim Cuddy was elected to the last seat in the four-seater Oranmore Ward of Galway County Council in 2004, and topped the poll to be reelected on the first count this year.
- Thomas Welby was elected to the fifth seat of seven in 2004 in the Connamara Ward of Galway County Council, and topped the poll to be reelected on the first count this year.
- Paul Mitchell, who was elected to the third seat in the Emo Ward of Laois County Council in 2004 was reelected again this year
- Eddie Fitzpatrick was elected to the third seat of five in the Edenderry Ward of Offaly County, and was reelected this year to the second seat.
- Fergus McDonnell was elected to the last seat in Edenderry in 2004, but unlike Eddie Fitzpatrick, he failed to be reelected this year.
- Walter Lacey was elected to the third seat in the Carlow West Ward of Carlow County Council in both 2004 and 2009.
- Donal Lyons topped the poll in the West Ward of Galway City Council in both 2004 and 2009, reelected on the first count
- Declan McDonnell and Terry O’Flaherty were elected to the third and fourth seats respectively in the East Ward of Galway City Council in 2004, and this year they topped the poll, reelected to the first two seats, with O’Flaherty just 45 votes ahead of McDonnell on the first count.
- Mae Sexton who was first elected as an Independent to Longford County Council for the Longford Ward in 1991, was reelected as a Progressive Democrat in 1999. She became a TD for Longford-Roscommon in 2002, losing her seat in the redrawn Longford-Westmeath constituency in 2007. This year, she was again elected as an Independent councillor on the County Council.
- Brigid Teefy was reelected to the third seat of seven in the Castleconnell Ward of Limerick County Council in both 2004 and 2009.
So Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Galway County Council and Galway City have three former Progressive Democrats on the new councils, while Limerick and South Dublin County Councils have two each on their new councils, with one each on the Carlow, Fingal, Laois, Longford Meath, Offaly and Tipperary South County Councils and Dublin City Council, a total of twenty-one at this election, surpassing the nineteen councillors in 2004. I’m pleased for all those elected that it was that high, and, particularly to those I know personally, I wish them well over the next five years.