It’s all change in Naas. The abolition of Naas Town Council means that the town will form part of an enlarged Naas area, or Municipal District.
Currently there are five councillors elected to represent the Naas area on Kildare County Council and this will increase to 9.
But the Naas geographical area increases too - with the addition of Kilcullen, Gilltown and Ballymore Eustace as well as the entirety of Bodenstown (previously half of this area was part of Clane for local election purposes).
Unlike the town councils which represented Newbridge and Leixlip - effectively talking shops without the power to raise their own revenue - Naas Town Council has had a meaningful role over the years.
The new Naas councillors will be under pressure to ensure that there is no diminution in the services provided to the town. After all, businesses will still pay the same rates, except to Kildare County Council and the raft of other charges levied by Naas Town Council will still have to be paid to KCC.
They will also come under fire over the slow rate of taking Naas housing estates in charge.
Fine Gael had 3 councillors elected to Naas Town Council at the last election but two of them, Emer McDaid and Alan O’Kelly, aren’t running again in 2014. This means that the FG team has only one elected councillor, Darren Scully. Cllr Scully can expect to top the poll, despite having to stand down as Mayor over comments he made about Africans in November 2011.
Johnstown’s Fintan Brett was co-opted by Fine Gael in March 2011, when Anthony Lawlor was elected to the Dail, and may well follow him in given that it’s anticipated that Scully will poll well.
Former councillor Billy Hillis, who will hope to garner votes in the Ballymore Eustace area, is seeking to win a seat he held some time back.
The Fine Gael team is completed by Jacinta O’Sullivan, who has a significant profile from her voluntary work with both the Special Olympics group in Naas and HOPE(D), which promotes awareness of depression and suicide.
Fianna Fail fields three candidates and of these Willie Callaghan - though he may get less votes than Scully - is the standard bearer. Cllr. Callaghan has held the seat previously held by his late father Bill and he survived the swing against Fianna Fail at the last poll.
Nobody has worked harder than Sallins-based James Lawless, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2009 contest and it won’t be a surprise if he is elected for the first time.
Robbie Power, son of former TD Sean and nephew of former councillor JJ, completes the FF ticket and is an election debutant.
Fergus Carpenter, a teacher in Dublin who lives in Sallins, is the Labour newcomer and will be hoping to win the seat held by the retiring Paddy McNamara. He is also chairman of Sallins Community Council. Cllr McNamara was a popular councillor but some of his substantial support is likely to leak to Lawless. Labour will also run sitting councillors Ger Dunne and Anne Breen. Both Cllrs. are members of Naas Town Council and are involved with a number of local organisations and were elected for the first time in 2009. Labour will do well to get two candidates elected but much could depend on where the McNamara’s votes go. Of the independents, veteran councillor and Tidy Towns activist Seamie Moore will fancy his chances of being re-elected on the basis of previous performances at the polls, comfortably exceeding the quota on the first count in the NTC poll of ‘09.
Naas town councillor Pat Clear, now an independent and a former member of the defunct Progressive Democrats, has not yet made up her mind about whether to run.
Of the sitting county councillors only Cllr. Paddy McNamara is not running again.
Apart from the aforementioned Naas town councillors Emer McDaid and Alan O’Kelly, Cllr. Rioghnagh Bracken, a solicitor, is also standing down from local politics and won’t take part in the election.
Paula Corr from Naas will run for Sinn Fein, in place of Martin Kelly, who has a local profile having contested local and Dail elections. albeit unsuccessfully.