FINE Gael councillor Diarmuid Scully has launched an attack on his own party - saying they are running too many candidates in the Limerick local election.
Cllr Scully - a former Seanad election candidate and the Fine Gael group leader on City Council - believes the party’s election strategy is a “mistake” - and is worried they will pay the price with splits in the vote leading to loss of seats.
“Look at the numbers we are running in each of the wards,” Cllr Scully told the Limerick Leader, “I think we are tending to run a large number of candidates in the expectation we will get a large vote, which may not happen”.
Fine Gael are fielding 14 candidates across the city, with just 21 seats up for grabs.
In the massive eight-seater City East ward, five candidates are chasing eight seats.
Meanwhile, in City West, six candidates are running with only seven seats available.
And on the northside, three Fine Gael candidates are running in the six seater at present - but a fourth is likely to be added following the retirement of Cllr Kevin Kiely.
Cllr Scully says elections during a government’s term of office present an opportunity for the public to “express their dissatisfaction in the government of the day”.
“You could see in the days of Bertie Ahern, when Fianna Fail won four [general] elections on the bounce, they effectively lost each local election. I suspect, as a party, we will get a lower vote in the local elections than if it was a general election,” he said.
Due to the impending merger of Limerick City and County Council, and Fine Gael’s success at the 2009 local election, many outgoing councillors are going to stand, which may provide an reason for the high candidate numbers in Limerick.
As well as a high number of candidates hampering vote management, party insiders in Limerick have admitted fear of a loss of seats, due to a resurgent Fianna Fail, as well as a continuance in support for Sinn Fein, and other left wing candidates.
But Castletroy-based county councillor Michael Sheahan, Fine Gael’s acting secretary, says all the outgoing councillors deserve a chance to go again.
“There are so many successful outgoing councillors from Fine Gael, so you have to allow them to stand. Fine Gael does not seem to have suffered as much as other parties in terms of the opinion polls,” Cllr Sheahan said.
In terms of City East - one of the largest constituencies in the whole of Ireland, stretching from Garryowen to Montpelier - Cllr Sheahan believes all the candidates can hold their own.
“Fine Gael should be running five candidates in an eight seater. I think we have a good spread there [in terms of geography]. I think individually, they are all very capable. There are four outgoing councillors who have a very good record of service to the people. Where they are based individually, they do not interfere with each other,” he said.
Limerick City will vote for 21 metropolitan councillors for the newly merged authority on Friday, May 23 next.