Ireland will go to the polls tomorrow, Friday, for the 2024 Local Elections.

Government to get ‘bit of a kicking’?

Independent candidates could do well while Sinn Féin are likely to increase numbers but remain at risk of being ‘frozen out’ in Cork’s local elections, a UCC expert has said.

As Cork and the rest of Ireland get ready to vote tomorrow, Friday, Director of the Centre for Local and Regional Governance at UCC, Dr Aodh Quinlivan, said this year’s elections are “tricky” to get one’s head around.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Dr Quinlivan said he feels Sinn Féin, who currently hold four seats in the city council and none in the county, are likely to increase their presence in both councils but may still not get a look-in in terms of any coalition or majority pact.

“I think we tend to forget how badly Sinn Féin did in 2019, so you would imagine from that perspective that the only way is up for them,” he said.

“It's a mixed bag of course because the opinion polls aren't very encouraging for Sinn Féin at the moment.

“In that context, you would imagine that Sinn Féin, compared to 2019, will improve but they seem to have taken a fairly cautious approach in the county in terms of the number of candidates,” added Dr Quinlivan.

In the city, he said Sinn Féin could increase their presence to seven seats.

“That doesn't guarantee them a whole pile afterwards,” he said.

They could still be frozen out depending on the numbers,” he said.

Though dissatisfaction with central government is not at the levels seen in the years following 2008 and the downturn of the economy, Dr Quinlivan feels that Independent candidates will do well in this year’s local election as voters seek an alternative to the big political parties.

“Local elections are often used to give a bit of a kicking to the Government of the day,” he said.

“I think it's quite likely that independents will hold the balance of power. They will be key to whatever kind of coalition or pact is formed afterwards,” added the UCC lecturer.

Turning to the two major government parties, Dr Quinlivan said he predicts that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be hard-pressed to hold onto the shared 14 seats (seven and seven) they currently hold in Cork City Council.

“I think the government parties will suffer somewhat but won’t be devastated. The tricky one, of course, could be the Green party. The smaller party in national government tends to get blamed for a lot of things and suffers in the next electoral cycle,” said Dr Quinlivan.

Looking ahead to the coming five years, Dr Quinlivan said the first challenged faced by the incoming city and county councils will be the actual running of the councils.

“You're likely to get a kind of disparate, eclectic group of people elected, so even forming a kind of a coherent coalition to run the council, pass your budgets, all of those things could be politically difficult,” he said.

Other key areas faced by the newly elected councils will include the regenerating the city centre, dealing with dereliction, transport, town redevelopment, and the introduction of environmentally sustainable policies, concluded Dr Quinlivan.