With fewer than ever candidates putting themselves forward for local elections across the country this year, the Portlaoise Municipal District bucks the trend with 16 putting themselves forward this year.
That remains steady with the numbers from 2014 and 2009 as 16 also ran.
Currently the seven seats are held by Portlaoise natives Pauline Madigan (Fianna Fail), Noel Tuohy (Labour), Willie Aird (Fine Gael), Caroline Dwane Stanley (Sinn Fein) and Catherine Fitzgerald (Fianna Fail) along with Ballyroan’s Mary Sweeney (Fine Gael) and Abbeyleix’s John Joe Fennelly (Fianna Fail).
The Portlaoise district stretches from Shaen down as far as Ballinakill. It borders Timahoe, Emo and Ballycarroll on the east, Ballyfin and Trumera to the west, Mountmellick to the north and almost as far as Durrow to the south. As well as Portlaoise, it also takes in Abbeyleix, Ballyroan, Ballinakill, Raheen and Clonad, just out to The Heath and across to area around The Rock primary school.
Laois underwent a significant change for the 2014 Local Elections, when five areas changed to three and the overall number of seats was reduced from 25 to 19.
This time there is only one small change that affects Portlaoise – one that will see the townsland of Clash – between Mountrath and Abbeyleix – move from the Portlaoise district to Borris-in-Ossory-Mountmellick.
Plenty of new faces
16 candidates ran for election in 2014 but just six of these are seeking votes this year. Jerry Lodge’s (RIP) seat was filled by Pauline Madigan last year and she goes forward along with Willie Arid, Catherine Fitzgerald, Joe Joe Fennelly, Caroline Dwane-Stanley, Noel Tuohy and Mary Sweeney for re-election.
The remaining nine, with the exception of Thomasina Connell, are first time candidates. The Fine Gael hopeful ran in the last General Election and achieved more than 4,000 first preference votes.
Donal Kelly goes for Fianna Fail for the first time while so too does John Gormley for Sinn Fein. Renua have two candidates in Dominic Dunne and Noel O’Rourke while the rest are independents.
Timothy Adejumo, Tom Duffy, Naeem Iqbal and Judith Preston-Grace make up the rest of the field.
Back in 2014, three of the current candidates were elected on the first count after surpassing the quota.
Willie Aird topped the poll with 1,450 votes, something he has done for the last three elections. Fianna Fail’s John Joe Fennelly came in next on 1,374 while Sinn Féin’s Caroline Dwane-Stanley was the third one over the line with 1,348.
No other candidate was elected until the eighth Count when Mary Sweeney got over the line as Catherine Fitzgerald, Jerry Lodge (RIP) and Noel Tuohy were elected on the 11th and final Count.
How they voted in Portlaoise in 2014
The late Jerry Lodge and Fianna Fail
Mr Lodge was first elected to Portlaoise Town Commission in 1967 and he celebrated 50 years as a public representative in 2017.
After his election to the Town Commission he was elected to the County Council at each of the seven subsequent local elections – in 1979, 1985, 1991, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.
He polled 722 first preference votes in 2014 and it will be very interesting to see where those votes end up in this election.
After a lengthy process, Pauline Madigan was chosen by Fianna Fail Headquarters to succeed Jerry Lodge. She has enlisted the support of party stalwarts Ray Cribbin and Liam McMahon – long-time friends of Jerry Lodge’s – on the campaign trail and it will be very interesting to see if she can get his supporters to now vote for her.
Fianna Fail once again field four candidates with Madigan joined by fellow sitting Cllrs Catherine Fitzgerald – first elected in 1999 and now the party’s most experienced representative in Portlaoise – as well as Abbeyleix’s John Joe Fennelly, always a big vote getter, and newcomer Donal Kelly.
Fine Gael aiming for three
Fine Gael were very strong in Portlaoise back 2014 with Willie Aird and Mary Sweeney both polling over 1,000 first preference votes.
Two other candidates, Kathleen O’Brien (RIP) and Jim Ring, gathered up 840 first preference votes between them.
They have changed tactic this year by running one less candidate, with Thomasina Connell joining Sweeney and Aird on the ballet, in an effort to claim an extra seat.
As previously mentioned, Thomasina achieved over 4,000 votes in the 2016 General Election and after opting to run in the Portlaoise area where she is in business, rather than the Graiguecullen-Portarlington area where she is from, it will be very interesting to see if her vote in 2016 can translate to similar support on this occasion.
How they voted in Portlaoise in 2009
Renua enter the fray
For the very first time, Renua Ireland will field Local Election candidates in Laois and both of them will run in the Portlaoise area – Dominic Dunne and Noel O’Rourke.
Mr Dunne, who owns DMS Tyres in Clonminam, was among a number of candidates who sought to be co-opted by Fianna Fáil to the Laois County Council seat left vacant following the death of Jerry Lodge.
He later contested the party’s selection convention, which chose Cllrs John Joe Fennelly and Catherine Fitzgerald and Donal Kelly and later added Cllr Pauline Madigan. After missing out, he decided to run for Renua.
Kilminchy resident Noel O’Rourke is a community person who was a leading No campaigner in Laois in last year’s Abortion Referendum.
He was among a number of candidates who sought to be co-opted by Fianna Fáil to the Laois County Council seat left vacant following the death of Jerry Lodge – but that was filled by Pauline Madigan. He then chose to run for Renua.
Sinn Fein aiming for two
Sinn Fein’s Caroline Dwane-Stanley was elected on the First Count back in 2014 after surpassing the quota by almost 50 votes.
Her running mate on that occasion was Sharon Bailey but after receiving 438 first preference votes, she was eventually eliminated on the eighth count.
This time, John Gormley, who lives lives in Ballytarsna, Abbeyleix, will run.
The fact he is based outside Portlaoise will probably help spread the Sinn Fein vote better but you’d imagine Mr Gormley will require transfers from Dwane-Stanley.
The Rotimi effect
Rotimi Adebari was the first ever black mayor elected in Ireland but he lost his seat in the 2014 election and is not running this time.
He has endorsed a newcomer in the form of Timothy Adejumo who is running as an Independent.
Back in 2014, Rotimi was involved in a final count showdown with Catherine Fitzgerald, Noel Tuohy and Jerry Lodge (RIP).
And he just lost out to the late Mr Lodge by 88 votes. So Mr Adejumo will surely try to tap in to some of those votes.
The late Kathleen O’Brien and Joseph McCormack
As well as the late Jerry Lodge, two candidates who ran in 2014 have sadly passed away since. Fine Gael’s Kathleen O’Brien, who was a sitting Cllr in 2014 but lost her seat, passed away in April 2017.
While in October 2017, Independent Joseph ‘Hesh’ McCormack also sadly passed.
Between the two of them, they received 397 First Preference votes in the last election.
List of Candidates
- Timothy Adejumo (Independent)
- Willie Aird (Fine Gael)
- Thomasina Connell (Fine Gael)
- Tom Duffy (Independent)
- Dominic Dunne (Renua)
- Caroline Dwane-Stanley (Sinn Fein)
- John Joe Fennelly (Fianna Fail)
- Catherine Fitzgerald (Fianna Fail)
- John Gormley (Sinn Fein)
- Naeem Iqbal (Independent)
- Donal Kelly (Fianna Fail)
- Pauline Madigan (Fianna Fail)
- Noel O’Rourke (Renua)
- Judith Preston-Grace (Independent)
- Mary Sweeney (Fine Gael)
- Noel Tuohy (Labour)
Voting for this year’s Local and European Elections takes place on Friday, May 24, from 7am to 10pm. The count for all three Laois areas then begins early on Saturday morning, May 25, in Portlaoise.