Fingal Independent

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Ann ready to take her seat

As Cllr Philip Lynam steps down from the council, his replacement, Cllr Ann Graves (SF) talks to Ken Phelan about the challenges ahead in her new role

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Ann Graves at her new workplace at County Hall in Swords

Ann Graves at her new workplace at County Hall in Swords

Cllr Philip Lynam, Paul Dunne and Cllr Paul Mulville at the new Men’s Shed in Swords

Cllr Philip Lynam, Paul Dunne and Cllr Paul Mulville at the new Men’s Shed in Swords

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Ann Graves at her new workplace at County Hall in Swords

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Following the departure of Sinn Fein councillor for Swords, Philip Lynam this month, his successor, Sinn Fein colleague Ann Graves, is eager to follow in his footsteps and make her own distinct mark on the Swords electoral area.

An activist for a number of years and trade union representative in the education sector, Ann previously worked on Deputy Louise O'Reilly TD's election campaign, and canvassed for Philip Lynam when he was running for councillor.

Originally from Drumcondra, Ann has been living in Swords for 28 years, and with three grown-up children and a husband working in Swords, is very much involved in the local community. Ann has been a member of Sinn Fein the past five years, and says she always had an interest in politics at local level, but that it wasn't until she became involved in Cllr O'Reilly's campaign that her interest was piqued in becoming a councillor herself.

Here, Ann tells The Fingal Independent how she came to be selected by the party, and some of the pressing issues she feels are facing Swords and Fingal: 'How it came about was that Philip Lynam was stepping down, and someone was needed to take his place.

'The members of the Cumman selected me and I accepted, then they had an election and I was co-opted.

'I'll be formally co-opted at the council meeting on January 14.

'When Phil stepped down, I was probably the natural choice, but I'm honoured to have been selected.

'I had intended and had discussed running in the local elections in May, anyway. It was felt that Phil was so popular that we would get two people elected this time out.

'I had worked very closely with Phil on local area issues, and was involved with discussion groups with him, so I got to know the area very well. '

Looking ahead to what she wants to achieve on the council, Ann said: 'There's a lot that needs to be done, and I'm really excited about becoming a councillor for the area, and excited about helping people locally. My approach will be very 'hands-on', and I intend on giving it my very best.

'If I'm going to do this I'm going to give it my all, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make a difference, because the role of a councillor is to represent local people first and foremost.'

Coming from her background as both a trade union representative and campaigner with Sinn Fein, Ann feels she is well-placed to take on the role of councillor.

She says she felt 'a little bit nervous' before Christmas about the prospect, but is now looking forward to getting her feet wet and facing the challenge.

Describing herself as 'pragmatic' and a good communicator, Ann feels she is very competent in representing people of all backgrounds, and has an 'inbuilt sense of fair play.' Having worked closely with both Cllr Lynam and Deputy O'Reilly, she has a very good understanding of local issues, she says, adding that she intends to 'do the very best' for those she will represent.

Dedicated to her party, Ann asserts that Sinn Fein 'does the most' for the Fingal area, and that members are 'constantly on doorsteps', finding out what the local issues are. Pointing out that councillors are canvassing and on the ground not just at election time, but 'all the time', Ann says this is an important point for the party.

She says: 'I think Sinn Fein is a party for the people; they have a proven track record, with Sinn Fein councillors working tirelessly with all the local groups and support groups on every kind of issue, trying to resolve them.

'We have an office in Swords and an office in Balbriggan. We hold clinics three times a week, and we're available to anybody who wants to call in and speak to us.

'We do our best to help people in so far as we can. You can't resolve everybody's issues, but even if there's nothing you can do you can say, 'well I tried my best.'

One issue Ann says is a recurring theme raised on the doorstep is the issue of housing and homelessness and is, she feels, the single biggest problem facing both Swords and Fingal in general.

She says: 'Housing is a big thing, and not just homelessness.

'I have three grown up kids and none of them could afford to get a mortgage, because the prices and the way they're going is ridiculous.

'Already I've had a number of calls since Phil stepped down, and they're all about housing, about people living with families, and living in hotels, just not being able to afford their own place.

'Most of them have young children, and they don't know where they're going to be from one day to the next.

'I think it's shameful, and a lot of the other parties aren't doing too much about it.

'Really, at the end of the day, it's up to the councils to build houses to sort out the housing problem, but it's just not happening.'

She says: 'Another thing I'd like to see would be decent employment in the area - less short-term contracts, and more permanent-type jobs.

'We're being told that the live register is going down all the time, but there are a lot of people who are on short-term or zero-hour contracts, even though that's not supposed to happen.

'That's why there's a lot of people coming off the live register. They're not actually in decent employment, they're just doing a few hours here and there.

'It all links together - if people are in decent jobs, they're spending more money, and that helps the economy, and they're able to afford more housing.

'These kind of common sense things are just not being addressed by our current Government.

'I'd love to see Sinn Fein in government, and to have our policies followed through, but that's all for the future.'

Looking towards defending ber newly-acquired seat on Fingal County Council in May, Ann says she hopes to build up a base of support before the election, where people will know her and the work she has done so far.

She puts some of her success down to the guidance of her predecessor, and is effusive in her praise of his hard work: 'Phil did some amazing work, and the number of people who would say to you 'are you not here with the big fella?'

'When you're doing your canvas, then fill you in on some of the work he's done.

'He did so much, and it wasn't for public attention or just to gain votes.

'He's just a really good guy, a friend and a comrade, and I look forward to him coming out with me canvassing when the time comes for the May elections.

'Phil is still a member of Sinn Fein, and he's still helping us on the doorsteps.

'We'll be calling on his expertise all the time, because he was just a really good councillors.

'The outpouring of praise that came not just from Sinn Fein members, but from other councillors who really respected him and the work he had done is incredible.

'I think that's something that I'd like to be able to mirror.'

Ann says she plans to meet Phil over the next couple of weeks, mostly to go over 'processes' as she leans the ropes of her new role and says she counts herself as being very lucky to have other Sinn Fein councillors in the area to call on for help too.

With their and Philip's expertise, she says, she'll be well-placed in knowing exactly what's expected of her and will be fully prepared for the May elections and her immediate work on the council which starts, this very month.

She concluded: 'I am excited about it. I've big shoes to fill, but I think I can do it.

'I wouldn't be putting myself forward unless I thought I was capable of doing the job, so I can't wait to get stuck in.'

The work now begins in earnest for the new councillor for Swords with a short time to make an impression on the local voters.


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