Trim Town Council/Electoral Area analysis

Story by Tom Kelly

Tuesday, 26th May, 2009 4:11pm

The loss of a seat in the Trim electoral area means that a newcomer will have to displace a sitting councillor to win one of the four remaining seats in the area.

Trim electoral area had five seats for the last outing in 2004, but the recent boundary changes means that there are now just four seats up for grabs this time around with eight candidates putting themselves forward for the poll.

The current council is made up of two Fianna Fail seats, two Fine Gael seats and one independent - four of the sitting councillors are seeking re-election: Jimmy Fegan and Seamus Murray of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael"s Bill Carey and Peter Higgins and independent councillor Phil Cantwell.

Fine Gael"s Peter Higgins, who was the second candidate elected behind Jimmy Fegan in 2004, decided not to go forward this time and Fine Gael selected sitting Trim Town Councillor Ray Butler to join Bill Carey on the FG ticket.

Bill Carey, from Enfield, has sat on Meath County Council for 42 years and was re-elected on each occasion since his first outing in 1967. However, the veteran local councillor just about made it over the line in 2004, behind Cllr Cantwell, and the loss of a seat in the area could put him under pressure, although he has the advantage of being the only candidate from Enfield.

Cllr Ray Butler topped the poll in the Trim Town Council elections in 2004 and is well-known around the town. He has been canvassing hard in the rural areas of the district in the hope of retaining Peter Higgins"s seat for Fine Gael and it is thought he has a reasonably good chance of doing that.

Cllr Jimmy Fegan has been on Meath County Council since 1999 and topped the poll in 2004. As Transport Minister Noel Dempsey"s constituency advisor, he should be a safe seat for Fianna Fail and his running mate, Seamus Murray, is also a long-standing councillor, having assumed Dempsey"s council seat in 1987. Whether Fianna Fail"s poor performance in the opinion polls translates into seat losses at local level on polling day remains to be seen but the party is likely to come under some pressure and is unlikely to enjoy as high a vote share as last time round.

Cllr Phil Cantwell won a seat on the county council for the first time in 2004, having already served a term on Trim Town Council. He has the advantage of being a sitting councillor and will benefit from the anti-establishment vote, but the reduction of a seat in the Trim area could also leave him vulnerable.

Labour is running one candidate, Tracey McElhinney from Ballivor, who is involved with the local community council and the Next Era Calling (NEC) lobby group for former NEC Semiconductor Ireland employees. Labour is enjoying increased popularity, according to national opinion polls, and she is not without a chance but the fact there is one less seat this time will not help her cause either.

Sinn Fein"s Caroline Lynch was co-opted to the town council two years ago but is unlikely to figure in the shake-up for a county council seat. Trevor Golden is the current chairperson of Trim Town Council but, again, is likely to struggle to gain enough votes in the county council area. Independent Eoghan Farrell (18) from Longwood is the youngest candidate for a Meath County Council seat and is also unlikely to figure.

TRIM TOWN COUNCIL

With three sitting councillors retiring, the way has been left open for some newcomers to figure in the make-up of the new Trim Town Council.

The outgoing council comprises two Fianna Fail seats, two Fine Gael, one Labour, one Sinn Fein and three independents.

Labour"s Danny O"Brien, who has been on the council for 10 years, took the decision to retire for health reasons but he will be hoping that his son, Donall, can keep the Labour seat in the O"Brien family.

Fianna Fail"s Jimmy Peppard is also retiring after being on the council since 1999 but his sister, Cynthia Peppard-Simonet, will also be hoping to keep it in the family come 5th June.

After 25 years on the local town council, popular local independent representative Robbie Griffith is also stepping down.

With six sitting councillors seeking nine seats, it is likely that all six will hold onto theirs. Independents Trevor Golden, who is currently chairperson, and Phil Cantwell, who has been a decade on the council, should be safe bets.

Cllr Ray Butler, who topped the poll on the last occasion, and sitting councillor, Gerry Reilly, should both retain their seats for Fine Gael. FG"s third candidate, Willie Fay, is a very well-known face around Trim and is not without a chance.

Caroline Lynch is Sinn Féin"s third councillor within the last five years and this factor may put her under pressure, but there should still be enough of a Sinn Fein vote in the town for her to hold onto her seat.

Fianna Fail is fielding four candidates, though only Vincent McHugh is a sitting councillor. He is joined on the ticket by Cynthia Peppard, Ronan McKenna and Paddy Rispin.

Ronan McKenna is engaged to Noel Dempsey"s daughter, Aileen, and should harness the Dempsey vote and take a seat. As a sitting councillor, Vincent McHugh should also be safe. Whether Peppard and Rispin can add to this will depend on whether the national slump in the Fianna Fail vote is replicated at local level. Fianna Fail would also have to build on their vote share last time around to take a third seat.

Labour is fielding two candidates - James O"Shea and Donall O"Brien. If the current upsurge in Labour"s popularity is anything to go by, then it is possible that Labour could take two seats. The party is expected to at least hold onto its current seat.

Independent candidate, Aidan Murphy from High Street, was a late entrant into the race and is unlikely to make much impact at this stage.

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