1 April 1999 Edition
Ambitious local election challenge in Cavan/Monaghan
By Mícheál MacDonncha
Sinn Féin is making its most ambitious challenge ever for seats on local authorities throughout the 26 Counties this year. There are no less than 28 candidates standing in Counties Cavan and Monaghan alone. Announcing the panel of candidates, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin said that they aimed to ``greatly increase the strength in numbers and talent of what is already the most effective team of elected representatives in this constituency''.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD said that his election as a Sinn Féin Deputy in 1997 demonstrated the long work record and political support of the party in Counties Cavan and Monaghan. The historic electoral performance on that occasion would be reflected with more successful Sinn Féin candidates in 1999.
Sinn Féin goes into the contest holding ten seats - two on Monaghan County Council and eight on the municipal authorities. With 20 candidates, the party is aiming to double its representation. Seven candidates are challenging for seats on Monaghan County Council and 13 on the elected town bodies - each of which has multiple candidates.
In County Cavan, Sinn Féin is aiming to redress its current lack of local authority representation and reflect in new council seats the widespread support that ensured O Caoláin's election as TD. The party is putting forward eight candidates - four for the County Council and four for the municipal authorities.
Brian McKenna and Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD are sitting Monaghan County Councillors and will be joined on the panel of candidates for County Council seats in the Monaghan Electoral Area - which covers the North of the County - by Brenda McAnespie, a new candidate and member of Monaghan Ladies' Football team.
In Clones Electoral Area, the County Council candidates are Brian MacUaid and Sheila McKenna, both first-time runners for Sinn Féin, reflecting the new talent coming forward.
Jackie Crowe, a sitting member of Castleblayney UDC, is standing in the Castleblayney Electoral area for the County Council. Carrickmacross Electoral Area has Noel Keelan as the standard-bearer for Sinn Féin in the County Council contest.
Stressing the importance of the County Council contests in both Cavan and Monaghan Caoimghín O Caoláin cited some of the main issues:
``An increased Sinn Féin presence is vital if the needs of the people are to be effectively met at this level. We must address:
Employment creation in the border counties and a fair share of the current economic prosperity.
Support for the most hard-pressed of our farming community.
The upgrading of our infrastructure, especially our roads.
Protection of the environment and consultation with the community on potentially hazardous developments such as mobile phone masts.''
Currently holding three seats on Monaghan UDC, Sinn Féin aims to increase that representation to five. Sitting Councillors Owen Smyth and Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha are joined by Seán Conlon, Pauline Martin and Gerry Loughran. TD and County Councillor Caoimhghín O Caoláin, who is also a sitting UDC member, is not a candidate for the UDC this time.
Candidates for Clones Urban District Council are UDC Chairperson Peter McAleer and Councillors Pat Treanor and Debbie Moore. These three sitting councillors are seeking re-election and are set to bring their considerable experience back to the council.
Gene Duffy is the sitting Sinn Féin member of Ballybay Town Commissioners. He is joined on the party ticket by Barry Cunningham. In the town of Castleblayney, Jackie Crowe holds the Sinn Féin seat on the UDC. Jackie is again going forward and his running mate is James Cunningham. Carrickmacross UDC is the only local authority in County Monaghan on which Sinn Féin is not yet represented. The party's youngest candidate, Ogra Shinn Féin National Organiser Matt Carthy (21), is standing here with Frances McBride.
Commenting on the party's challenge in the urban centres, Monaghan UDC member Padraigín Uí Mhurchadha told the Northern Standard:
``The housing issue will be especially important in this election. There is increasing pressure on local authorities to provide homes, but the funding is not forthcoming from central government. This must change. The provision of new homes and improving the economic and environmental fabric of our towns are key priorities for our team of candidates.''
Four Sinn Féin candidates are contesting the election to Cavan County Council. In the Cavan Electoral Area, former Sinn Féin County Councillor Charlie Boylan, who served on Cavan County Council between 1974 and 1985, is bringing his experience to the campaign and hopefully back onto the council.
In the Bailieborough Electoral Area, Paddy McDonald is the Sinn Féin candidate. Pauline Tully goes forward in the Ballyjamesduff Electoral Area and in the west of the County, Peadar Neary is standing in the Belturbet Electoral Area. Four Sinn Féin candidates are contesting the elections in the three towns in County Cavan with elected authorities - Cavan town, Cootehill and Belturbet. They are as follows:
Cavan Urban District Council - Brian McKeown
Cootehill Town Commissioners - John Martin and Harry McCabe
Belturbet Town Commissioners - Benny Henry.
Cavan County Council candidate Pauline Tully said that undoubtedly the ``big issue'' in the local elections would be the continuing deplorable state of so many of the non-national roads. She said that this year's 13% increase in central government allocation for Cavan's roads was due in no small measure to the work of Sinn Féin, through its TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin, campaigning alongside the community in County Cavan.
She said:''While this increase was significant, it is still short of what is required and the Sinn Féin team of candidates pledges to continue to work with local communities to restore this vital infrastructure. All our incoming local authority members will press this demand as a key priority.''
Sinn Féin confident of gains in Dublin
Right across the city of Dublin, the Sinn Féin electoral machine is up and running in preparation for local authority elections in June. There is a strong feeling that there has never been a more favourable time for Sinn Féin to make gains in the capital. The party believes it has the right message and the right candidates and that with hard work over the next 10 weeks it will emerge sucessful on 12 June.
The upbeat atmosphere was reflected at two packed campaign launches on opposite sides of the city recently. Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's election campaign in the Southeast Inner City, on 25 March, National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said the party was: ``confident of victory with a focused and determined campaign.
``Our candidates, not only here in the Southeast Inner City, but across Dublin are those people who have shown leadership within their communities. This leadership has been recognised by the people of Dublin''.
The packed meeting was told by local candidate Daithí Doolan that: ``Homelessness in Dublin has risen by 60% in recent years, 10,000 people on the housing list, developments based on profit instead of need, these are the issues that concern people. These are the issues that we have been involved in over the years. It is because of this work and because of you, the people who are working with us, that I am confident of taking a seat in June''.
Paul Donnelly launched his campaign for a seat in the Mulhuddart ward in West Dublin on Tuesday, 30 March. He was joined by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin, who said that Paul and his wife Angela had been central to the reorganisation of Sinn Féin in the area as a vibrant political party with deep roots in the community.
O Caoláin said the work of Dublin Sinn Fein among communities throughout the city since the early 1980s is a matter of record and that now was the time to ensure that the voice of these communities is heard on local authorities in the form of Sinn Féin councillors.
Paul Donnelly said there was a genuine recognition of the work that Sinn Féin had carried out in the Blanchardstown community. He said: ``We are recognised as a party of integrity, a party not afraid to confront the issues that the community faces every day. We are the only party with a solid record of work on the ground. I am extremely confident that on June 12, with your continued support, I am going to be the first Sinn Féin councillor on Fingal Council.