Saturday 17 August 2019

Climate is the priority

Newly-elected councillor, Aobhinn Tormey talks to Ken Phelan about her local election success and says her priority is tackling environmental issues

Cllr Aobhinn Tormey
Cllr Aobhinn Tormey

It's early days yet, but newly-elected Fine Gael councillor Aoibhinn Tormey is settling well into her new position on Fingal County Council, following a tireless and driven campaign for the recent local elections.

Cllr Tormey, serving the Howth/Malahide ward, is still adjusting to her new role, but already has a strong sense of comradeship and solidarity with her fellow councillors.

Declaring her election to the council as being 'the greatest honour of my life', the first-time councillor is brimming with ambition as she sets out on her five year term.

Speaking to The Fingal Independent, Cllr Tormey describes the 'whole new world' of working on the council, some of the areas she will focus on during her term, and the challenging election campaign she ran: 'I mentally just went into it just ready for anything.

'I was getting a very good response on the doors, so that kind of kept me going, but I did have a huge challenge ahead of me.

'I was up against seven incumbents and I was the main challenger, so a lot of people were saying to me that they didn't know if I'd be able to do it because it was just such a big task ahead.

'But I just kind of kept going, and I think I was just so driven in what I was trying to do and the message that I was trying to convey, that I just kept going and kept knocking on doors.

'Obviously the message resonated with people, and I got two-thousand-and-sixty-four votes, so I was absolutely delighted.'

The newly-elected councillor explained: 'There was just so much up in the air; the area was specific to seven seats, but then also we saw the Fine Gael support began to drop, and I definitely felt that temperature change on the doors.

'So I had no idea by that Friday (the day of the election) how it was going to go.'

Since being elected to the council, Cllr Tormey has been offered just a taste of what it is to work for the local authority.

The council's recent Annual Gemeral Meeting (AGM) and first council meeting after the local elections largely involved the election of members to various committees and the election of the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

There has not been a 'typical' council meeting as yet, where members could put forward questions or motions to the CEO, nor has the opportunity arisen, Cllr Tormey says, to get down to the 'nitty gritty' of policy making.

Describing her first few weeks on the council, she says: 'It's like a step into a whole new world, and it's like who do you go to for what?

'And just learning I suppose about how a whole new system works, which is the same for anyone going into any new job.

'So I'm still at that stage.

'Fingal have been very very good to all the new councillors, being as helpful as possible to help them settle in, and I suppose I'm out in the community as well, checking in with different groups and seeing how can I help them and trying to follow that up.'

Talking about the Howth/Malahide area that she will represent and working with six other councillors from the area on the council's Howth/Malahide Area Committee, Aobhinn said: 'Working with the other councillors, the way I view it is, there are seven of us there serving a common purpose, representing a huge number of people.

'Almost forty two thosand electors give the seven seats, so it's a huge huge responsibility to have, and you have to work together.

'I have nothing but absolute respect for all these people as well, and I obviously met a number of them before the campaign, and knew Anthony Lavin as well through Fine Gael.

'It (the area committee) is totally focused on how can we best serve the people of the area to ensure that any issues that are there at the moment, that they do get resolved, and also that we're planning for the future in a sustainable way that's practical and common sense.

'So in order to do that, we do have to have a cohesive team, we do have to work together.'

Aoibhinn declares that being elected to the Howth/Malahide ward was 'honestly the greatest honour I've had in my life', and that it was a huge privilege to have so many people place their trust in her to represent them on the council.

She is, she says, 'absolutely delighted' she has been elected to Fingal County Council, adding that she's fully determined to 'get stuff done.'

Climate change is a big priority for Cllr Tormey, which she says she put forward to voters at every door. It is, she says, a 'huge huge passion of mine', and that with Fingal's climate plan and the Government's Climate Action Plan in place, it is now time to act on what is perhaps the defining issue of our times.

She says: 'I'd love to get on to the Fingal Environment Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), and I'm kind of waiting for that.

'But what I have done in relation to climate change is picking up a lot of the little issues, so it's about implementation.

'We need to be moving to either public transport or electric cars. People need to be moving away from their diesel or petrol cars, but the issue is that a lot of people are living in houses that don't have a driveway, so they can't install an electric charge point.

'I live in an apartment block, so I've got an underground car park, and I'd love to get an electric car, but it's just not possible.

'So I've been on to SEAI, I've been on to Richard Bruton, because I live in Dublin Bay North and he's the local TD and I'd be quite close to him. In terms of climate change, it's looking at those kind of practical issues.

'So that's something I'm trying to work on at the moment.

#We've identified the issues on the ground, so now it's about implementation and what can we do for those houses that don't have the driveways.'

'Technically', Aoibheen says, she was signed up by her father to join Fine Gael 'many years ago', as he himself had served as a councillor on Dublin City Council.

Moving back to Ireland from the UK in 2013, she became heavily involved with Young Fine Gael, serving on the National Executive as Director of Policy.

Cllr Tormey has been involved with Fine Gael 'my whole life', she says, from the first day of canvassing with her father when he was running as a councillor.

There were other events too, which spurred Cllr Tormey towards working on the council, as she says:

'I had a real stand-out moment, because the bank guarantee was actually signed on my eighteenth birthday.

'So I was having this really milestone day personally - the whole country was about to enter this massive crisis mode, and I just remember thinking 'What the hell is going on?, what the hell is going to happen?'

'I had just an acute sense of awareness of the importance of electing the right people into these positions, because you have certain individuals who took their eye off the ball completely, or chose to ignore all the warning signs that were coming, and that's not right.

'That's why I think it's so important that I have my job outside of this, so that I'm not reliant on politics, and I'm able to go in and be completely objective because I can be, and because I'm not dependent on it.'

On her vision for Fingal and Irish society in general, she says: 'I'd like to see us undergoing huge transformation as a society to try and protect our planet and protect our future, and I think that does require leadership, it does require a lot of sacrifices, and I'm someone who's willing to be in that position of leadership on the council to be driving this forward.

'Our country is really really great and there's so much to offer, and I think it's about supporting that, and Fingal as a place as well, continuing to support that to grow and as a place for tourists to visit.

'It's about just serving the people as well - every single day you've got people with issues that need to be addressed, so it's helping people with the little things as well that wouldn't necessarily make it into the paper, but you're impacting on people's lives.

'So I just hope that at the end of the five years that I will have had a positive impact on people, and that's all I can hope for.'

Fingal Independent