With an extra seat to play for this year, the Slane electoral area contest for Meath County Council has seen very strong campaigns by all parties and, indeed, by the independents in the race.
The Slane area, which also includes the coast, will now have six seats and all the parties have had their eyes on the gains that can be made.
With 14 candidates fighting for the six seats, it is bound to be a closely fought contest, which is likely to see some casualties along the way. The sitting councillors are Fianna Fail"s Pat Boshell from Laytown, Fine Gael"s Anne Dillon Gallagher, Drumconrath; Jimmy Cudden, an independet member of the council from Duleek; Green Party member Tom Kelly and Eoin Holmes of Labour who was co-opted onto the council in 2007 following the election of former councillor Dominic Hannigan to the senate.
Fine Gael is certainly determined to gain a seat this time with the huge rise in the party"s popularity rating nationwide and an additional seat up for grabs as well as a strong electoral team.
The party lost out in 2004 to Dominic Hannigan, who was then running as an independent candidate, and outgoing FG councillor Shaun Lynch also lost his seat at that time. The party is now hoping to win back its second seat on the council and is fielding a strong team, including Cllr Gallagher, Sirena Campbell, who ran for the PDs in the last local and general election, and Duleek anti-incineration campaigner, Pat O"Brien.
Ms Campbell seems to be doing very well on the canvass trail over the past few weeks and hopes are high within the party that she can take a seat for Fine Gael. She put in a strong showing for the PDs in 2004, remaining in the fray until the fifth count.
Fianna Fail director of elections, Dan O"Connell, says his party is expecting to take two seats this time round. In 2004, outgoing councillor Hugh Gough lost his seat to party colleague Pat Boshell, but FF"s hopes of winning back a second seat could be hurt by the fact that Hugh Gough is now running as an independent candidate and has been dubbed as a possible surprise in this contest.
The independent candidate Seamus O"Neill from Duleek is also expected to hurt Fianna Fail, as his partner, Sharon Keogan, has been a strong party activist for some time.
Sitting councillor Pat Boshell has been joined on the Fianna Fail ticket by two strong candidates, Wayne Harding, a well-known and popular Slane businessman, and Sinead Moore from Grange Rath.
Labour"s Eoin Holmes is expected to benefit from his party"s big increase in popularity and can be expected to hold onto his seat. Veteran councillor Jimmy Cudden, a former Labour Party member of the counci, who topped he poll as an independent candidate in 2004, is also likely to hold his seat with a significant vote.
Another long-serving councillor, Tom Kelly of the Green Party, could be under pressure. The former Fine Gael and independent councillor made a remarkable comeback from a low first preference poll in the 2004 election to gain a seat. With a quota of 1,814 to meet, he polled just 587 but managed to pull in transfers from all parties and corners of the electoral area to take the seat at the end of the day.
Sinn Fein also has a strong candidate in Sinead Burke but she is not really expected to be in the final shakedown, although she could poll strongly.
There are two other independents in the race: James Carey from Stamullen and Joanne Finnegan, who ran for Sinn Fein in Meath East in the 2007 general election.