Monday 19 August 2019

'It was a group of death... I was hoovering up transfers!' - meet some of Ireland's newest local councillors

Áine Kenny

Housing is top priority for many of the new faces elected to councils nationwide this week.

And the main feelings are ones of exhaustion and happiness as the newly elected councillors get ready for the task ahead.

Conor Sheehan of the Labour Party was elected to Limerick City council and says he is "absolutely still in shock" over the positive result.

"I was told I was in the top seven count, but really it was the group of death. We one of the longest ballot papers in the country with 21 candidates, it was a dog fight over transfers really," said Conor, who will officially become a councillor this weekend.

"I am exhausted; I barely slept since Thursday since I was on tenterhooks... luckily I was very transfer-friendly, I  was hoovering up transferable votes left, right and centre," the Limerick man laughed.

The newly-elected councillor wants to focus on housing.

"Limerick has a lot of land banks which should be used to build public housing. I would oppose any of the other parties selling off this land to private developers," he said.

"We also need to work on turnaround times of local authority houses.

"Currently it is well over a year. Limerick City Council is also spending far too much money on buying private houses or renting them through the likes of HAP."

Hazel Chu of the Green Party, whose memes on 'the Simpsons' went viral on a social media fan page earlier this week, told she is overwhelmed.

"It was great, and a relief. It has been such a long few months, but so amazing and surreal."

Green Party local candidates Patrick Costello & Hazel Chu with their daughter Alex (1 1/2) at the Local and European Elections and divorce referendum counts in the RDS, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The key issues she wants to focus on are housing and the environment.

"There’s a stretch along the canal me and my daughter walk along and there’s people living in tents there. Dublin City Council has mandate to build more houses and we need to act on it.

"The cost rental model of housing has worked in other European countries.

"The local authorities build houses, and tenants pay rent which is used to cover construction costs over a long term period… we also need to use derelict and vacant sites, there’s so many and it’s a shame we aren’t progressing.

"There’s been a Green wave, and people on the doors are aware and want to see change. We need better public transport and we need to lower our carbon emissions.

"We need climate action committees in every local authority and climate issues need to be included in all policy decisions."

Social Democrat Eoin Hanley was elected to Galway City Council and this is his first foray into politics.

"I was told that if I ran again next time, I’d get in, so I was written off before I won, mainly on transfers," Eoin said.

"Transport in Galway is my main issue.

"We need to end the over-dominance of single passenger cars. We need a reliable bus service, with shelters and bus lanes. We also need to have safe cycle lanes for adults and children.”

"Housing is another obvious problem. We need to use public land and not rely on private developer because that system has failed. I’ll also tackle dereliction."

Máirín McGrath was elected to Tipperary County Council as an independent. Máirín is no stranger to politics as she is the daughter of TD Mattie McGrath.

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Mairin McGrath voting with her father Mattie and mother Margaret

"I think I was blessed because I had experience and a supportive base," Máirín said.

"Obviously Mattie has a great work ethic. I didn’t experience much negativity at the doors. Even when people had a different political background and wouldn’t be voting for me they were very courteous. I was humbled and satisfied with the campaign."

The Tipperary councillor added that developing tourism and tackling housing was a big part of her campaign.

Ben Dalton O’Sullivan is only 19 years of age and is an independent councillor for Cork County Council.

He is a student in the BSc Government and Political Science degree in University College Cork, so his new job suits him.

"It was some relief when I got elected. It was just unbelievable," Ben said.

"I think as a local councillor; people don’t want you to change the world. They want the basics right. They want decent roads, footpaths, streetlamps. They want someone at the other end of the phone, someone to talk to."

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