Despite the combined opposition of the two main conservative parties, independent councillor Christy Burke has been elected Mayor of Dublin for 2014/2015, with Sinn Fein to hold the mayoralty the following year.
The result has been welcomed by progressives across the political spectrum and marks a setback for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who will not get the opportunity to hold the mayoralty at any point during the council’s five-year term.
Mr Burke is a long standing left-wing councillor, a former political prisoner and for many years Sinn Fein’s only councillor on Dublin City Council. First elected in 1985, he became an independent in 2009 following a dispute with the party.
Sinn Fein will hold the key position of Mayor of Dublin for the 1916 centenary commemorations after negotiating a left-wing ruling coalition on Dublin City Council.
A planned arrangement whereby the position would rotate between the five largest groupings on the council collapsed after Fine Gael and Fianna Fail suddenly pulled out of the negotiations.
Instead, Sinn Fein entered into coalition with Labour (eight seats), the Green Party (three seats) and 11 Independent councillors.
Following last week’s election, Sinn Fein is now the largest party on the 63-seat council with 16 seats. The agreement will see the party holding the mayoralty for two separate terms, with the Independents also holding it twice and Labour once.
Fine Gael group leader Kieran Binchy claimed his party was ‘putting policy ahead of the [election] spoils’. He said Fine Gael pulled out of talks when it failed to secure a binding guarantee to pass budgets without increasing commercial rates.
Fianna Fail, meanwhile, admitted it was unwilling to be party to a deal which would see Sinn Fein holding the mayoralty for Easter 2016. One senior member claimed that the party was concerned that the position would be “abused” under Sinn Fein.
But it was a different story in other parts of the country. In a significant change, a number of Fianna Fail/Fine Gael power sharing deals were agreed.
On Louth County Council Sinn Fein holds a majority, with 10 out of the 29 seats. However, Fine Gael councillor Oliver Tully secured the seat yesterday with 17 votes from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail (5), Labour and the Greens.
The pact was described as a “sleeveen” deal by SF’s Imelda Munster, adding that it was “a car park coalition”.
There was similar criticism in Kerry, where Fianna Fail’s John Brassil was elected as chair of the 33-seat Kerry County Council. Other members of the two parties are due to take turns in the chair over the next five years.
The Civil War parties won nine seats each on the council, which had previously been controlled by a Fine Gael/Labour/independents alliance.
Limerick also saw a coalition between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, which ensured that Fianna Fail’s Kevin Sheahan was elected chair.
WOMEN MARCH ON
Meanwhile, up North, two women have been elected as mayor and deputy mayor of Belfast for the first time as a power-sharing arrangement continued. The appointment of the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon as first citizen and the Alliance’s party Maire Hendron as the deputy were confirmed at City Hall last weekend.
Ms Mallon, a councillor in the Oldpark ward in the north of the city, has also become the first female nationalist Mayor of Belfast. She succeeds outgoing mayor Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir.
An SDLP woman is now also in the top political position in Derry after councillor Brenda Stevenson become the new mayor. That decision was ratified following an annual general meeting of Derry City Council on Monday night.