The Municipal District of Maynooth contains the two extremes of Kildare’s population profile, with highly and densely populated towns such as Maynooth, Kilcock and Clane on the one hand, and a large swathe of mainly farm and bogland on the other.
There are nine seats up for grabs here in May’s local elections, with, it’s believed, 11 people running.
As well as the three towns mentioned, there’s also a chain of smaller villages such as Prosperous, Straffan, Newtown, Coill Dubh, Allenwood, Derrinturn, Staplestown, Carbury and Clogherinkoe.
However, most of the candidates are based in the larger towns, but with some notable exceptions.
At present the area that will become the Maynooth District straddles two of the currently constituted Electoral Areas, Clane and Celbridge.
The Clane area has four sitting councillors, Brendan Weld and Seamus Langan of Fine Gael, both living in the more rural area, Padraig McEvoy, an independent living in Clane, and Liam Doyle, Fianna Fail, who lives in Kilcock.
It is understood that Cllr. Doyle has decided not to contest the elections in May.
The Celbridge area is currently represented by Kevin Byrne, Colm Purcell and John McGinley of Labour, Senan Griffin of Fine Gael, Frank O’Rourke of Fianna Fail and Independent Anthony Larkin.
Of them, only Cllrs Griffin and McGinley will be relevant to the Maynooth District. Both are living in the university town, although Cllr. Griffin will not be running again.
Of the 11 people declared to run for the new District, only four are currently elected to the County Council - Brendan Weld, Seamus Langan, Padraig McEvoy and John McGinley.
Daragh Fitzpatrick, son of the late councillor and TD Michael Fitzpatrick, has already spent some time on Kildare County Council after he was co-opted when his father was elected to the Dail in 2007.
As of the time of writing, Friday, March 7, the 11 declared candidates are as follows: Brendan Weld, Seamus Langan and Timothy Durkan of Fine Gael, Paul Ward, Daragh Fitzpatrick and Naoise Ó Cearúil of Fianna Fail, John McGinley and Julie McNamara of Labour, Réada Cronin of Sinn Fein, Martin Grehan of People Before Profit and independent Padraig McEvoy.
As a result of the crossover into a second District, it’s hard to say what way things might go, but it’s worth noting that the Clane Local Electoral Area, which is almost entirely included in the new Maynooth District, returned two Fine Gael councillors, one Fianna Fail and one Independent, the last time out.
Two of them - Padraig McEvoy (Ind) and Seamus Langan (FG) were new, although Cllr. McEvoy replaced his father, the long standing Tony McEvoy, and was the only candidate to run in Clane, the town with the greatest population base.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Brendan McEvoy, by virtue of having been a county councillor for many years and being from a well known and respected, largely Fianna Fail local family, topped the poll by a considerable distance, and passed the quota on the first count.
Cllr. Langan scored a credible 932 first preference votes, and although he was behind others, such as PJ Sheridan who did not eventually get elected, he picked up steady transfers across the course of nine counts from candidates of all parties and none.
If the top vote getters in the Celbridge Electoral Area are to be taken at face value, it appears the area is a hotbed of left wing voters, something that will likely stand to newcomers Martin Grehan and Réada Cronin in the coming election.
Catherine Murphy topped the poll in 2009 with two quotas. Next up was Kevin Byrne who was also elected on the first count and John McGinley who wasn’t far off it.
A third Labour councillor, Colm Purcell, pipped in, along with Fine Gael’s Senan Griffin and Paul Kelly of Fianna Fail.
Therefore on the evidence of the 2009 local elections, the new District can be seen as left-leaning in the more urban, eastern side, and Fine Gael in the more rural areas to the west.
Fine Gael’s three candidates can all be reasonably expected to fare well. The two sitting councillors, from the rural north west of the county, will likely prosper from the exposure and profile of their current positions.
And Mr. Durkan is the son of sitting TD Bernard, and already has an advantage in voter recognition. The retirement of Senan Griffin, also based in Maynooth, will also be a help given that it frees up 1,300 Fine Gael votes.
Left leaning TDs in the form of Leixlip’s Catherine Murphy and Straffan-based Emmet Stagg, neither of whom are likely to trouble the centrist element of the Labour party, dominate the political scene in the area, along with two Fine Gaelers, Naas-based Anthony Lawlor and Maynooth’s Bernard Durkan.
However, it remains to be seen if the two Labour candidates, John McGinley and Julie McNamara, Sinn Fein’s Réada Cronin and Martin Grehan of People Before Profit can get elected, or whether they will split what might be a dwindling number of left leaning votes too thinly between them.
As is the case everywhere there is a rump of diehard Fianna Fail support, and the retirement of Cllr. Liam Doyle will leave a certain number of votes for the party’s new representatives, Paul Ward who is based in Doyle’s home town of Kilcock, Daragh Fitzpatrick of Clane and Maynooth’s Naoise Ó Cearúil.
Apart from the party political link, Daragh Fitzpatrick, son of the late TD Michael, is likely to profit from his previous time in office, and the family name.
However, whether there’s enough to see all three of them get elected remains to be seen, given that Maynooth, which is where a good chunk of the District’s population lives, appears to be a Fianna Fail-free zone at council level.
As ever in these matters, the prevailing national mood of the moment will be reflected in the local elections.
For instance, Fine Gael has long been the strongest party at local election, which could be interpreted as a reaction to the decades long prominence of Fianna Fail at national level.
Anti-government candidates prospered in the last local elections in 2009, but many of them, especially Labour and Fine Gael, are now in Government.
Of those two parties, Fine Gael appears to have done better in maintaining their support in the polls, and can reasonably expect to have a decent outing at the local elections.
As the smaller party in coalition, Labour has taken something of a hammering - and the Leinster Leader understands that activists in that party appreciate this and have cut their cloth to suit their measure, running a limited number of candidates, well spread across the Districts.
The urban university town of Maynooth will likely be where the anti-austerity candidates will get a more sympathetic hearing, although this election will be a test of their ability to translate that sympathy into votes.