Cllr Vinny McCormack, on left, had the support of his siblings Sinéad and Ciarán McCormack, all of Ballymore, at the election counts.

Moate four strengthen their grip


The Moate Electoral Area is a prime example of a committee in action.

Devised by the Boundary Commission in 2018, it is neither horse nor camel, neither South nor North Westmeath, and instead is a hotch-potch area that stretches from Rathown on the Longford border, to the edge of the Mullingar urban area, down to Kilbeggan/Tyrrellspass border and across to Ardnagrath on the outskirsts of Athlone.

In a county divided by two large towns, an attempt to find a common ground may have seemed to fit demographic calculations in the back rooms of number crunchers but in reality serves no one.

The only people, ironically, whom the area may suit are its four sitting councillors, who have all carved out their own individual geographical areas within this sprawling electoral area drawn out on a map by the conquering powers of a Government-appointed committee.

The lack of buzz around the campaign was based on the strength of the existing councillors, the shortage of candidates (8) and the lack of a female name on the ballot paper.

All four outgoing candidates were re-elected, in the shape of Fine Gael's Tom Farrell, Fianna Fail's Vinny McCormack and Liam McDaniel and Labour's Johnnie Penrose.

It's an area where the incumbents have a strong advantage, and Moate-based independent Michael O'Brien was always facing an uphill task in his attempt to break that stranglehold. He may have needed to take a larger share of the vote in the Moate urban area to succeed.

Proof of how embedded the four sitting councillors are was evidenced by the fact that all increased their personal vote from 2019.

Tom Farrell topped the poll for the second successive election. This time he had no Fine Gael running mate, but his feat in improving his vote by a whopping 618 was impressive. In 2019 Fine Gael ran a second candidate, Damien Clear, who polled 607 votes.

Aside from his political strengths, Farrell has a strong agricultural background, is based in a relatively populous part of the electoral area, and has area-wide recognition due to his long-standing involvement in GAA administration.

Vinny McCormack, based in the village of Ballymore, and strongly associated with Deputy Robert Troy, has also a strong grip on a seat, reflected too in his own increased vote, up from 1,313 to 1,630

Liam McDaniel was the only significant candidate from the Kilbeggan area – and increased his vote to 1,480 from 1,329 last time around.

Again though, comparisons to 2019 are slightly misleading for both the Fianna Fáil elected candidates as the party had a third name on the ballot paper last time out.

And Labour Party's Johnnie Penrose can be extremely pleased, after his long service on the council, to be able to rise his own vote from 1,262 to 1,441. Penrose is, of course, based in Ballynacargy in the centre of the area.

It was as you were in the Moate area – and it may take a retirement or the dramatic arrival of a new candidate to see a change.