Nine hopefuls in the field in Ballyjamesduff

There are nine candidates from four parties battling it out for the seats in the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District. Thomas Lyons looks at each of the candidates, their background and the main campaign issues.



A voice for ‘young and old’

TP O'Reilly grew up in Lisgrey House, a local family business now run by his brother Philip. “I'm the third child of a family of six - all of which reside and work in the locality. I went to primary and post primary school in Virginia. Then to Ballyhaise College to complete a course in Agriculture,” the Fine Gael hopeful said.

For the last 15 years he has lived in Cross, between Virginia and Mullagh. He runs a suckler and sheep enterprise and also works for local company - Civilx Utilities: “I am passionate about farming and the many issues that face this sector currently. I have a deep interest in politics and am a member of Fine Gael for many years.”

Mr O'Reilly hopes to represent “both young and old” and increase positivity in the local area: “I will not only highlighting the issues but promote and drawing attention to what we have on our doorstep: To promote local businesses, local facilities and increase tourism to this beautiful part of Ireland.”

He feels business in the area is going through an uncertain time because of Brexit and the increase in rates: “Businesses are the heart of our community as they support and sponsor so many key events and facilities in our area. I come from a strong local business. I feel I have the experience to be strong voice to raise their issues for the betterment of the community.”

He highlighted the new library in Virginia, the by-pass, car parking, speed and the increased traffic as locally significant issues. “A major issue that I have seen on my campaign trail is litter. It's destroying our local towns, villages and countryside. I feel it's time for action and tackle it ourselves,” he concluded.



‘I am ready and able to serve’

This is Trevor Smith's first time to contesting for a seat in the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District electoral area, but he is no stranger to political life being the son of retiring councillor Paddy Smith.

From Ballyjamesduff, Trevor now lives in Drumrora with his wife Gillian and their three children.

The Fine Gael candidate previously worked in the agricultural industry before returning to help run the family minibus and hackney service. He is involved in a number of voluntary organisations in the area. Through this work he is aware of the challenges facing his community: “I understands the struggle of small businesses in our local villages and towns, which need continued support in order to survive.”

Trevor has a fine pedigree in politics. His father Paddy served on the local authority since 2004. Trevor hopes to continue the tirelessly and diligently service to the people of Cavan his father was known for.

Trevor assisted Paddy for the last number of years in his role as county councillor. He deeply understands the commitment required in this role and the work involved on behalf of the community. “I am ready and able to serve the people if elected as a member of Cavan County Council. I look forward to meeting voters on the canvass as I seek their number one vote and support in the upcoming local election,” he concluded.

Speaking at the selection convention last January, the Fine Gael hopeful said that after working behind the scenes on local and general elections he felt now was the time to put his name forward to seek election. “I think it is time I came out in front and see how I manage there.”



Broadband, roads and jobs!

A dairy and pig farmer based just outside Ballinagh Winston Bennett was first elected to represent Fine Gael on Cavan County council in 2004. In the intervening time he has achieved a lot for the community he represents.

Among those accomplishments are initiating the repair to Flemming's Folly and its walkway, the Role of Honour paying tribute to the 750 men from Cavan who lost their lives in World War 1 and The Taste of Cavan.

The impact of Taste of Cavan is something he is rightly proud of: “It is still growing and the number of small businesses that have sprung from it is terrific. It attracts 30,000 visitors each August. This provides local producers an opportunity to network and showcase their products,” Cllr Bennett said.

Not content to rest on his laurels he still identifies areas he will target if elected to the next councl: “I will ensure basic infrastructure projects, such as footpaths and roads, are top of the agenda for this area. I will continue to campaign that other services provided by the authority, such as essential repair grants for the elderly and mobility grants, are funded adequately,” he said.

Cllr Bennett and his wife Wilma are strong supporters of Down Syndrome Ireland and are involved in various fundraising and national awareness campaigns for the charity. He continues to work for Irish Central Border Area Network ICBAN to further cross border relations and investment to offset the concerns around Brexit.

On the doorstep he will press a number of issues: “The main goals I am hoping to emphasise in my campaign are; Broadband for rural Ireland, making sure that lanes to peoples homes repaired, that jobs are brought to the country to save people from having to travel long distances to work at all hours,” Cllr Bennett said.



Vote local to ensure maximum representation’

Sitting county council member Shane P O'Reilly is one of three Fianna Fàil candidates seeking a seat in the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District. The popular councillor was first elected in the Ballyjamesduff area in 2004. Married to Elisha, they have five children ranging in age from five to 13 years.

A self-employed funeral director, Cllr O'Reilly believes his track record is one of his great assets: “I have been a strong advocate for community and I have assisted numerous community groups in availing of funding and supports, through the council and central government to enhance their areas.”

He has served the people of his Municipal District diligently since first elected: “As a member of the ETB, I have supported our local secondary schools and adult and community education programmes,” he said.

His ability to deliver on commitments is something he will be stressing on the canvas. “I have worked hard for my area. I have been approachable, and I've tried my best to facilitate anyone who has contacted me,” Cllr O'Reilly told the Celt.

He spoke of his priorities if elected: “There are many issues coming up as I canvass but, in particular, facilities for commuters, revaluation of commercial rates, dental and speech and language services for children and the Brexit implications on farming, are to the fore of people's concerns.”

Cllr O'Reilly stressed the importance of local representation: “With the boundary changes in 2014, the area I represent drastically changed making votes “non-transfer friendly”. It's essential everyone uses their vote to vote local and ensure maximum representation for this area,” he concluded.



Investment needed in front-line services

Mullahoran's Philip Brady is one of the two sitting Fianna Fáil councillors going forward seeking to return to Cavan County Council. Cllr Brady is a family man with strong community roots: “I am married to Hazel and we have a son named Tom. I am the son of Lillie and Danny Brady,” he was in fact co-opted in his father Danny's seat in 2009.

He was subsequently elected to the local authority for the Ballyjamesduff Local Electoral Division in 2014 with 1,420 first preference votes. He works as a sales representative.

He is proud of his heritage: “I am honoured to have been elected to serve the Ballyjamesduff Electoral Area since 2014 following in my father’s footsteps who was a member of Cavan County Council for 47 years.”

The last 10 years have given him a good grounding in the job: “I have enjoyed my term and have worked to the very best of my ability. I have a deep understanding of the issues facing our communities such as roads, broadband, housing and health.”

Cllr Brady has a broad appreciation of what the job entails: “An issue that of huge concern is the decimation of rural Ireland and the need to invest in our front-line services, for example nurses and gardaí. These sectors have not been given fair attention and I fully endorse their needs.”

He says he stands on his record of service: “I will continue to highlight problems with Disability Services. Families with children and adults with disabilities are being penalised and incur increased costs. I have worked along with many community groups and have secured funding in many areas of my district and, if re-elected, I will continue to highlight and work hard for the people who put their trust in me.”



Hidden homelessness and crime top of agenda

Since elected to Cavan County council in 2014, Cllr Noel Connell has worked tirelessly for the people of the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District: “I am from Mountnugent where I live with my wife and five children. Over the last 40 years I have ran my own business, Connell Aluminium.”

His participation in politics sits well with his local involvement: “I am passionate about community, I have been involved in a number of charitable projects locally namely the Moylagh JFK 50 mile challenge along with other initiatives raising much-needed funds for cancer research and other worthy causes,” he said.

The Sinn Féin elected representative has a clear view of the issues on the ground: “Housing is the number one issue I deal with as a councillor. The level of hidden homelessness and the stress it causes is unacceptable. There's housing stock available in the district and I have offered workable solutions such as compulsory purchase orders and renovations to make houses available to families.”

Another matter high on his agenda is crime: “Burglaries have rocked this district. I established a local text alert system in the Mountnugent area to increase vigilance and deter anti-community elements. I would like to replicate this initiative in other communities. I will continue to press the case for Garda resources to be deployed where they are needed most.”

Cllr Connell says he is eager to continue representing his constituents: “I want to continue making our area a better place to live, work and invest in. A strong Sinn Féin team will continue to bring progressive politics to Cavan County Council at a time when rural areas need it most.”



A new voice with ‘fresh ideas’

Candidate for Aontú in the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District, Gráinne Mc Phillips is hoping to capitalise on disillusionment with the government to deliver the new party a seat on Cavan County Council.

Promising to be a “strong voice”, the 24-year-old primary school teacher from the Ballinagh area said her decision to run for local office was simple: “Many people, young and old, in the Ballyjamesduff area feel underrepresented, and that a new voice with fresh ideas and passion for change is what they need.”

Ms McPhillips' campaign message has a specific target: “Through my involvement with Macra na Feirme and coming from a small farm in a rural area, I have first-hand experience of the issues facing people in rural areas. Rural development needs to be addressed urgently to ensure that you, the people, can conduct business and live full and prosperous lives.”

Her platform is to provide support for communities in Cavan: “I will work hard to ensure that broadband is updated and functional in a modern world. I will ensure that transport infrastructure such as Local Link services and substandard roads are improved on a continuous basis. I seek to aid local communities in developing systems to help tackle the issue of rural theft and crime,” the Aontú candidate said.

The new political party Aontú is led by former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóbín and will run 60 candidates in the forthcoming local elections. Ms McPhilips' is asking the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District Electorate for their support: “Aontú stands for Life, Unity and Economic Justice and we seek to radically shake up the current establishment through respectful opposition, which is essential in order to have true democracy in our country.”



Time to end the ‘post code lottery’

Running for the first time Geraldine Harten hopes to take a seat in the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District: “I grew up and still live in Kilnaleck. I am married to Thomas and we have three children.”

She is well grounded in politics: “I currently manage the Sinn Féin constituency office in Cavan on behalf of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD. Working with constituents on a daily basis has given me an acute awareness of the issues people are facing in Cavan. Homelessness, medical card queries and poor broadband are among the most common issues I encounter.”

Her decision to run is to instigate change: “I am also a part-time carer in the community. I work in many people’s homes and witness first-hand the care provided by family members on a full-time basis. Unfortunately, their hard work is not adequately recognised and I firmly believe we need to bring an end to the post-code lottery in care provision.

Different regions receive different funding, for example a person in Waterford can receive 17.5 hours of a homecare package per week while a person in Cavan with the same medical issues will only receive 11.5 hours per week. I will work tirelessly to highlight this issue and ensure carers and their loved ones get the support they deserve,” Ms Harten said.

She feels strongly on a number of issues: “I think the State is failing our most vulnerable, at a local level I will work hard to highlight the scandal of waiting lists for autism assessments and from working with constituents I also know that the services for children with autism are inadequate.

Ms Harten put my name forward to help people: “If elected, I intend to be a voice for those the State is leaving behind.”



I want to make a positive impact’

For a young man Craig Lovett has covered a lot of ground. He was just 43 votes shy of claiming a seat five years ago, so will be hoping to shore up the shortfall this time around.

Farmer, livestock auctioneer and jiver are a few of the strings to the aspiring politician's bow. “I am a proactive individual, a fresh face and a new strong voice for the Ballyjamesduff LEA,” he said of his ambitions.

Mr Lovett believes he's well placed to represent his community: “My involvement with local community groups, running my own business as an estate agent, my role as an auctioneer in Ballyjamesduff Mart and delivering social dance classes together with my partner Mairead leaves me very in touch with the needs of local people and the communities in which we live.”

He has also been featured on national advertisement for Lidl supermarket. Celebrity aside he believes he can make a contribution to the next local authority: “I have the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to make a meaningful difference in our local communities. I want to make a positive impact on the everyday lives of everyone in our communities. I promise to work hard, be a strong voice and be a solid presence in order to achieve this.”

The Fianna Fáil hopeful has identified important issues: “My main priorities for County Cavan are childcare, mental health and wellbeing, and employment and investment in our towns. If elected, I pledge to be available to all people at all times and to work on your behalf in the best interest of all.”

Mr Lovett's closing message to the electorate of the Ballyjamesduff Municipal District is simple: “I am seeking your number one vote or your nearest preference on polling day May 24.

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