More than 30 declare for Local Election race
Although nominations to contest this year’s Local Elections don’t officially open until 10am on Saturday, April 27, the race is already well underway on the ground with candidates hitting the campaign trail hard.
There are a total of six seats up for grabs in each of the three Municipal District areas - Bailieborough-Cootehill (population 24,415); Ballyjamesduff (25,802); and Cavan-Belturbet (25,959).
However, with the rumour mill on Kildare Street forecasting that a general election could be as early as September-October, the outcome of the local and indeed European Elections could be a key indicator as to who will make it into the 33rd Dáil going forward.
In the Bailieborough-Cootehill area, Fianna Fáil have selected Cllr Clifford Kelly from Kingscourt to retain a seat for the party. He will challenge alongside newcomers Aidan Fitzpatrick and PJ Barry.
Cllr Kelly came second in the polls in 2014, behind Niamh Smyth, re-energised having spent five years on the outside looking in having lost his seat in 2009 in a recessionary lash-back at the party.
With sitting Fergal Curtin bowing out at the end of this Council due to family and work commitments, Fianna Fail HQ considered it prudent to replace him with former party stalwart Gerry Murray.
The Lavey native was a councillor in Co Cavan for 30 years before retiring following the area boundary shake-up five years ago. He has also served as Cathaoirleach of Council (1992-93), and has never lost an election.
In a potentially risky fifth, the party have tacked on another former council chair in Francis McDermott (Shercock). He too lost out in 2009 when Fianna Fáil were punished in the local polls post economic crash, losing four seats.
But McDermott’s addition is seen as an attempt to fasten the east county vote, having only lost out in the ninth count five years ago despite earning almost 900 first preference votes.
Fine Gael meanwhile have returned Carmel Brady from Cootehill and Val Smyth from Lavey. They are joined by John O'Hare (Shercock) and Shirley Hall (Bailieborough).
Former Cllr O'Hare lost his seat in a turnaround that saw Fine Gael lose back much of the ground gained in the 2009 election.
The new face in the group is that of Ms Hall from Bailieborough, a relatively unknown figure in political circles, but with a reputation of a local activist and community volunteer. She was approached directly by the Fine Gael party to stand post-convention after former Cllr Sean McKiernan jumped ship to Cavan-Belturbet.
Sinn Féin party whip Paddy McDonald leads the charge in Bailieborough area, and has been joined in the campaign by Bridget Boyle from Cootehill, who is a well-known coordinator with the local Irish Wheelchair Association, and also acts as a representative on Cavan Disability Network.
All eyes meanwhile are on how Peadar Tóibín's young charge, Sarah O'Reilly (Bailieborough) of new party Aontú, and formerly Fianna Fail, will fare out.
Cllr O'Reilly hasn't fought an election campaign to date, having been co-opted in place of Deputy Smyth in 2016. She is one of 60 Aontú candidates selected to run in May's local and EU elections.
On the independent front, no candidates have emerged despite some small rumour. It would come as no surprise, however in an area that threw up two independents in 2014, in Harry Reburn and Val Martin. Both earned fewer than 200 first preference votes each.
Here Fianna FÁil have stuck to their guns in Shane P O'Reilly (Mullagh) and Philip Brady (Mullahoran), co-opted in his father Danny's place in 2009, but elected in his own right in 2014 with 1,420 first preference votes.
They've been joined by local auctioneer, jiver extraordinaire, and star of discount retailer Lidl's Trolleycam, Craig Lovett (Ballyjamesduff). He narrowly missed out on earning a seat five years ago by just 43 votes to Shane P O'Reilly.
A fourth Fianna Fáil candidate is being considered, The Anglo-Celt understands.
Fine Gael have also opted for a three-candidate strategy.
It sees outgoing Paddy Smith's son Trevor (Ballyjamesduff) stand alongside Winston Bennett from Ballinagh, with TP O'Reilly, brother of proprietor of Lisgrey House, added to make up for the shock retirement of Paddy O'Reilly from Virginia.
Noel Connell from Mountnugent is joined on the Sinn Féin party ticket by Geraldine Harten, a long-time friend of Dáil hopeful Pauline Tully.
Ms Harten is the only female candidate in the area after Shirley Byers lost a contested convention to Mr Lovett for the third Fianna Fáil nomination.
No independents have yet declared, and there were none in 2014 in what was the smallest field of the three areas with just eight candidates contesting.
John Paul Feeley (Blacklion) and Sean Smith (Bawnboy), will line out alongside Patricia Walsh (Cavan) on the Fianna Fáil ticket.
A former Cavan Town Councillor, Ms Walsh failed to transfer her past vote to win a seat on the council in 2014. There is every chance the party could yet run a fourth candidate, potentially in the Belturbet area, which has been bereft of representation since the abolition of the Town Councils.
Fine Gael hope to anchor their lot through current council chair Madeleine Argue (Cavan Town) and Ballyconnell's Peter McVitty.
However, catching most by surprise, Sean McKiernan, formerly of Bailieborough, has been drafted in to shore up the fight for a third seat.
Mr McKiernan was one of biggest shocks in 2014 election when, coming off the back of being the county's First Citizen, he won less than 500 first preference votes.
Damien Brady (Ballyconnell) returns for Sinn Féin in a bid for a third term, but it will be the first time contesting an election for running mate Daniel Downey.
He was co-opted following the 2017 retirement of former Councillor Eugene Greenan, who himself was only narrowly elected in 2014, winning the sixth and final seat in a tense eighth ahead of rival next nearest Ms Walsh.
Elsewhere, former Right 2 Change candidate Emmett Smith, who contested the General Elections in 2016, has been selected for People Before Profit; with Labour selecting Liam Van Der Spek. Both Cavan Town candidates have already started canvassing the area, with Mr Van Der Spek, in particular, hoping to improve on the meagre 200 votes the party earned in 2014.
The only independent to declare interest thus far is Belturbet publican, Brendan Fay.