This paper reviews the May 2014 local election contests in the Republic of Ireland, while also offering a brief overview of the contests in Northern Ireland. These local elections took place in the context of radical changes to local government structures on both sides of the border – changes which would frame the types of choices open to voters at the May 2014 contests. The new – and generally larger – constituency areas opened up opportunity spaces for new candidates (including new female candidates) to participate in local electoral politics, although these opportunities, in turn, were very much framed by geography. The overall reduction in local representation levels in rural areas in the Republic of Ireland meant that incumbency factors acted as significant brakes on the entry of new candidates in these areas. The radically changing political landscape associated with the era of austerity politics saw a major swing against the government parties in the Republic of Ireland, with notable gains made by Sinn Féin and a number of other anti-establishment parties and groupings. These changes have brought about the formation of new alliances to control different local authorities, which, in turn, have posed an increasing set of challenges in terms of the governance of such councils, as evident in a number of conflicts over council budgets in the winter of 2014.
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