MAYO ELECTIONS 2019: Horan and Lavin pose biggest challenge to Swinford status quo

Story by Tom Kelly

Thursday, 23rd May, 2019 3:00pm

MAYO ELECTIONS 2019: Horan and Lavin pose biggest challenge to Swinford status quo

THE new Swinford electoral area, with an electorate of 14,276, has eight candidates vying for four seats - and four of them are outgoing councillors.

On the face of it, John Caulfield (FF), Kilkelly, Neil Cruise (FG), Foxford, Gerry Murray (SF), Charlestown, and Michael Smyth (FF), Swinford, have reasonable expectations of retaining their seats.

But such analysis does not do justice to the impact being made on the canvass trail by Tommy Horan, the Kilmovee-based Aontú contender, and Tom Lavin, Fine Gael's new man in Swinford.

As a community development worker, Horan offers Aontú its best chance of winning a seat.

He is widely known and respected across a wide area and, by all accounts, has been receiving a very positive reception on the doorsteps and streets of east Mayo.

In fact, there are genuine concerns within Fianna Fáil that he presents a real threat to Kilkelly Councillor John Caulfield.

It would, of course, be one of the biggest shocks of the election if it occurs, but it certainly cannot be ruled out.

Similarly, Swinford shopkeeper Lavin has been displaying ambition and focus in his campaigning, placing pressure on the town's outgoing councillor, Fianna Fáil's Michael Smyth, as well as the second Fine Gael candidate on the ticket, Councillor Neil Cruise.

It is not forgotten in Mayo political circles that Cruise was the only candidate elected in 2014 after polling less than 900 first references. He registered 848, the next lowest of the successful contenders being Brendan Mulroy (FF), Westport, on 913.

Cruise knows there won't be a steady flow of transfers to him as there was in the Ballina Municipal District five years ago due to the much smaller field in Swinford and his supporters will also have noticed there is one candidate less running in the town of Swinford on this occasion, Sinn Féin’s John Sheahan gathering 1,026 first preferences five years ago.

If Lavin poses a threat to Cruise retaining his seat, then a challenge of equal proportions is also facing Smyth.

The only outgoing councillor who can afford to sleep fairly soundly over the coming nights is Sinn Féin's Gerry Murray, first elected as a Fianna Fáil candidate in 1999 and an ever-present since then.

Also running in Swinford is Sean Forkin (Independent), a farmer/electrician based in Cloontia, Charlestown.

Prediction: FF (2), FG (1), SF (1).

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