Navan Town Council/Electoral Area analysis

Story by Ann Casey

Tuesday, 26th May, 2009 4:14pm

The seven seats up for grabs in the Navan electoral area are currently held by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who have three seats each, and Sinn Fein with a single seat.

All of the parties will be very conscious of the increased population of the area since the 2004 poll, particularly around Navan town, and all have been putting in a lot of work on the ground in the new estates around the town.

The big question is whether the huge Fianna Fail meltdown forecast nationally by recent opinion polls will affect voting in Navan. At around 23 per cent in the polls, the party is 15 per cent down on what it could usually expect in a normal general election.

Fianna Fail took almost 40 per cent of the vote in 2004 in the Navan area, which was well in excess of what it needed for the three seats, as Fine Gael also took three seats with just 30 per cent of the vote.

Fianna Fail director of elections for the area, Eamonn Martin, said it would be foolhardy of him to think the Fianna Fail vote won"t drop, but he believes if the party can limit that drop to five or six per cent, they could hold onto all three rural seats.

However, there has been speculation among the other parties in the race that one of the Fianna Fail seats could be up for grabs. Former Fianna Fail activist, Adrian O"Donnell, who is running as an independent candidate, could hurt the Fianna Fail vote, although he is unlikely to take a seat.

Sources within Fine Gael say they believe the party will hold onto its three seats in the county council race in Navan and they say the response has been good on the doorsteps. However, there has also been speculation that, as FG won the three seats on a very low vote last time round, the party could be vulnerable this time.

Sinn Fein"s Cllr Joe Reilly seems fairly confident of holding onto his seat and his running mate, Peadar Tóibín, could well be in with a shout of taking a second seat for the party.

Labour Party headquarters appointed a second candidate, Jenny McHugh, to join local nominee, Eileen Drew, in recent weeks in the belief that the party could benefit from the recent large increases enjoyed by the party in national opinion polls.

However, there is a very real fear among some party members that their chance to win back what was once a strong Labour seat in Navan has been jeopardised by this move, which could split the first preference vote.

Navan Town Council

The changes to the boundary for Navan Town Council, which sees the electorate increase by almost 50 per cent, will have taken most of the parties by surprise and leaves it much more difficult to predict the outcome of this election.

With nine seats up for grabs, again the question is whether the huge losses indicated in the opinion polls for Fianna Fail will translate into lost seats in the town.

It is widely believed that the party will lose one of its four existing seats and Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are expected to hold onto their existing two seats each.

Sources within Fine Gael say they are confident they can gain a seat in the town this time round, but Fianna Fail"s director of elections, Eamonn Martin, says they have a good strong team and he is hopeful of holding onto all four seats.

Questions also hang over Cllr Phil Brennan and whether or not he can hang onto his father"s (the late Andy Brennan) seat to which he was co-opted last year.

He could be hurt by the fact that two more independent candidates are also in the race - Mary Vaughan and Francis Deane - both of whom are campaigning on similar issues, such as saving the Fair Green from development.

The final two seats are expected to be up for grabs between Cllr Brennan, a third seat for Fine Gael or Sinn Fein and Labour"s Anton McCabe. The Green Party candidate, Brian Flanagan, who has been steadily increasing his support over the years, cannot be dismissed either.

Traditionally Labour had a strong showing in Navan, but it is now 10 years since the party had a seat in Navan. Anton McCabe"s profile as a trade unionist and Labour"s rising popularity could see the party with a seat in Navan town again, while Sinn Fein"s Antoinette Rooney, who lives in Johnstown and is active in the Johnstown/Athlumney Community Forum, is well placed to take advantage of the many new voters in that area.

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