More than a dozen candidates have put their names on the ballot sheet for the upcoming local elections in the Bailieborough-Cootehill Municipal District area.
In total there are five Fianna Fáil representatives, four for Fine Gael, two for Sinn Féin, one Labour, and one for new party Aontú.
There are six seats up for grabs on the County Council. In no particular order, the candidates are:
Aidan Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fáil)
A native of Drumgoon, and son of Sean and Brigid Fitzpatrick of Latully, Canningstown, Aidan Fitzpatrick moved to Kill in 1994.
Married to Geraldine, they have three children- Katie Emer and Gavin.
From St Aidan`s Comprehensive, Aidan went to study Poultry Management in Athenry, from where he went on to manage the research and development department of a major poultry breeding company in England.
On returning home he managed Shalvey poultry, before setting up his own business- Cavan Country Produce Ltd- a salad manufacturing and outside catering company. On the sporting field he played hurling for Cavan from 1985 until 2010. “I played football in Drumgoon and trained many Camogie and Hurling teams in the area. I love community and people and enjoy organising events to get people out into the community to interact with each other.”
Whilst canvassing, the biggest issues hes found include healthcare, waiting lists, lack of respite, accessing the home help package and the new €4 per day bus fair for those with special needs. “It is difficult listening to some very distressed parents, children and patients as they try to break through the red tape of accessing these services. If elected I will be making this one of my main priorities.”
Bridget Boyle (Sinn Féin)
A native of Bough, Cootehill, Bridget Boyle is a first-time candidate who has been employed in the voluntary sector for over 30 years working with, and on behalf of, people with disabilities.
A wheelchair user herself, Bridget understands the “challenges” faced by people who are marginalised and excluded. She is therefore a strong believer of the need for inclusion and equity of service for all citizens. “If you want something done, you do it yourself,” says Bridget, who intends to be the voice of those who “may not be in a position to speak for themselves”.
There are numerous issues that she feels need to be highlighted, such as housing, health services, rural transport.
One major issue Bridget is passionate about in her area however is the lack of respite facilities for children and adults with disabilities in Co Cavan.
“Annalee View Respite Centre, Cootehill provides a respite facility for children and adults with disabilities in Cavan and Monaghan. From the end of January 2019, this facility has been closed by the HSE due to a serious oil leak, prior to this incident, the facility offered a reduced service to clients from September 2018. This is truly unacceptable, for families this means that the much-needed respite break that families deserve has been suspended indefinitely.”
In voting for Bridget Boyle, she says: “I will strive to work on behalf of all people who are marginalised, for those families who have been excluded. I will be the voice of those who struggle on a daily basis to get the services that they so rightly deserve.”
In seeking the public's vote, Aidan says he will being “energy and capability to act on and deal with all issues” as they arise. “I am proactive in the community and in touch with the electorate. I believe in democracy, fairness, equality and that everyone deserves a chance in life.”
Carmel Brady (Fine Gael)
Bunnoe-native now living in Tullyvin, Cootehill, sitting councillor Carmel Brady was elected to the Bailieborough-Cootehill Municipal District area in 2014.
Married to Seamus, they have two grown up children, and one granddaughter.
“I have worked in Cootehill for 32 years and even through the recessionary times the town has shown it resilience and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Unemployment has fallen from 16% to 5% since Fine Gael entered Government in 2011, Carmel points out, and in Co Cavan specifically, the live register is down by 55%.
She also highlights “huge investment” in education, from the new €15m Dun na Ri college in Kingscourt after a wait of 30 years, to funds secured for the new 26 classroom Holy Family School in Cootehill. “Construction is under way at present and a new school in Castletara with its fantastic Autism unit. New playgrounds at various schools also and I was delighted to be involved with the Principals and Boards of Managements in securing €50,000 in Shercock, €44,500 in Drung and €11,881 in Dernakesh. I worked with and supported various local football clubs in securing Sports Capital grants for their local projects including Cootehill, Kill, Drumgoon, Shercock, Drung and Redhills.”
Roads and in particular local roads are an “ongoing battle”, Carmel feels. “We have suggested to our Ministers, TDs and Senators to try and come up with a grant or incentive to encourage farmers and landowners to redirect this water off the road surfaces.”
“I will continue to work hard with our local Oireachtas members Minister Heather Humphreys & Senator Joe O’Reilly on the local issues.”
Clifford Kelly (Fianna Fáil)
Kingscourt-native Clifford Kelly is a current member of Cavan County Council representing the people of East Cavan since 1985, an the Bailieborough/ Cootehill Municipal District since 2014.
“I have good experience of local politics and have served on numerous local public Committees during that time.”
They include Community & Local Enterprise, Cavan Monaghan Education & Training Board, Joint Policing Committee, Dundalk Institute of Technology, as well as being active in many voluntary organisations.
“There are many issues facing our area at this time, issues around Policing, Road infrastructure, Costs to Businesses, Employment opportunities, Health supports, Agriculture, Brexit implications, and survival of our Towns and Villages. The reduction in funding to our local agencies has seen a deterioration of our local Road and private lane system”
There has also been a threat to the survival of local Towns & Villages from the concentration of Retail Parks in the larger urban centres, Cllr Kelly believes. “Savage increases” in the insurance costs, a need for social housing and issues with unfinished housing estates, rural crime and the proliferation of illegal drugs, are other things Mr Kelly considers key debatable points.
Another issue is the North South Interconnector, which if built would affect large swaths of land in the east of the county. “The proposed erecting of 45 mt high pylons across our community, when they could be put underground at a similar cost, must be resisted as apart from being an ugly blight on our natural country side they also increase the risk of cancer to humans.”
Francis McDermott (Fianna Fáil)
From Latteriff, Shercock, Francis McDermott is the fifth candidate selected by the Fianna Fail party to run in Bailieborough-Cootehill area, and one of two selected post-convention, alongside Gerry Murray.
In running, Mr McDermott is hoping to regain the seat he lost in 2009 when Fianna Fáil were punished in the local polls post-economic crash.
He was first elected to the Council in 1999, and served on the Council for the next 10 years, and as Cathaoirleach in 2007.
He is married to Annette, they have two children.
“If elected on May 24 the main issue in which I wish to combat is the local link bus in the surrounding areas of east Cavan such as Shercock, Cootehill, Bailieborough, Kingscourt, Mudabawn, Canningstown and many more areas. I feel this is a major issue,” he said. “Although I want to achieve this major issue there are many more issues I wish to take into action if I am elected.”
Mr McDermott believes his experience as a former Councillor will be of benefit when campaigning for such change. “I am willing to be at a beck and call for the people of my area and I feel that I would be a strong representative. In my full-time occupation in the agricultural sector I hear the main issues on the ground in the rural areas and local towns on a daily basis and I am aware of these and willing to put them into action.”
Gerry Murray (Fianna Fáil)
An auctioneer by trade, was added to the Fianna Fail party ticket in the Bailieborough-Cootehill area post-convention, following the retirement of former sitting Councillor Fergal Curtin.
Gerry's return to politics follows his own retirement five year ago following the redrawn local electoral boundaries which saw a significant portion of the Fianna Fail party stalwarts' stomping ground carved up.
In the 2009 elections, while still within the Cavan electoral district, Gerry received a little under nine per cent of the over all first preference vote. He was elected second from last along side fellow former Councillor, and upcoming election hopeful, Patricia Walsh.
The Lavey-native has over 30 years of experience dealing in local politics, and served as Cathaoirleach of Council (1992-93). He also previously served as chairman of the Dublin North East Health Forum, and as a member of the North Eastern Health Board.
He stands on the ticket in May having never lost an election.
John O'Hare (Fine Gael)
Born in Drumnaveil, Maudabawn, Cootehill, and living in East Knockbride, Bailieborough, John O'Hare presently works in Manor Farm in Shercock as a Production Manager.
Married to Kathleen, the couple have two daughters, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
He previously served on Cavan County Council from 2009-2014, and as Chair of the Heritage Forum during this time.
“If elected, I will fight hard to get more money for our roads and particularly our lanes. I will work hard to see high speed broadband in every home. I will try hard to stop any further rates or insurance increases for our retailers. We have to defend our towns and villages stopping the boarding up of small shops. Our post office network must be defended. Our farmers need stronger support. At the moment the suckler cow and beef farmers are in real difficulty. I will fight for our farmers and our rural way of life.”
Mr O'Hare believes East Cavan have some of the finest lakes in Ireland. “Access to them and more marketing of them is needed. We have a great tourism product that I will seek to enhance.”
He points out also that many housing estates need proper footpaths and lighting.
“It is important that the people that you elect to Cavan County Council will not be afraid to stand up for you. I am asking you for your Number 1 vote or highest preference. If elected, I promise to work very hard for you in return.”
Mary Roche (Labour)
A new Labour Party candidate had her name added to the election ticket in the Bailieborough-Cootehill area at the eleventh hour and with less than three weeks to go before polling day has already started canvassing for votes.
Mary Roche is a student studying for a BA in Food Science & Technology in Ireland’s first Technological University in Sandyford in Dublin, having worked in the hospitality industry for the past 19 years .
A single mum of two boys, Craig (12) and Scott (11), she explained that her inspiration to run for elections is her own mother, Patricia Lee, a local community care worker, and her late grandfather Phil Lee, who also ran as an election Candidate in the 1980s.
An active member of several community groups in the Cootehill area, including Cancer Care and Cootehill Senior Citizens, she says: “I want to ensure that our local Council provides supports for the many community and voluntary workers who give selflessly of themselves on behalf of all with little or no recognition.”
She adds: “As we face the prospect of Brexit ,Councils can play a crucial role in identifying and providing supports for local businesses. I would like to see supports for arts and heritage extended to local diverse small groups, especially our youth to encourage community spirit and inclusion. Of course community spirit will be stunted if there aren't enough affordable homes and this is the most important problem to be tackled by the incoming County Council.”
Paddy McDonald (Sinn Féin)
Paddy McDonald was first elected as a Councillor in 2004, and in 2017 was elected Cathaoirleach of Cavan Co Council.
He is currently Chairman of both Bailieboro Shamrocks, and the local CE Scheme which covers the following areas - Bailieboro, Cootehill, Knockbride, Drumgoon, Shercock and Killinkere. He is also on the board of Cavan Sports Partnership and CMETB.
“As we all know the issue of illegal dumping and littering has reached epidemic levels over the past few years. Every road, laneway and scenic area in the county is being destroyed by the blight of all kinds of rubbish. The litter wardens in Cavan Co Council have tried their utmost to keep on top of the problem but there are only a few staff covering a very large area. There is trojan work being done on the ground by CE scheme participants as well as Tidy Towns committees and Residents associations. However, more resources and funding from central government needs to be put in place to tackle this scourge locally e.g. doubling the number of litter wardens, rolling out more CCTV surveillance at known blackspots and publicly naming and shaming those who are responsible.”
He adds: “I have been serving the people of the Bailieboro-Cootehill area for the past 15 years and have worked with them on securing better services locally across a range of issues. If elected I will continue to make roads, housing, healthcare and community funding my core priorities as well as the undergrounding of the North-South Interconnector.”
PJ Barry (Fianna Fáil)
Grandson of the late Councillor Pat Barry, and present Cathaoirleach of his local Cumann, PJ Barry's political roots are deeply seated in Fianna Fáil. “My profile on the ground is very much voluntary and community based. As secretary of the Mid Summer Festival I am at the forefront of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Halloween Fright for your Lights and the Christmas Lights. It is a pleasure to serve on these committees with such wonderful co-workers and volunteers. “
As a first time candidate he hopes to bring “freshness, enthusiasm, energy and newness” to the role. “I am here to question, to challenge, to vouch for and to seek solutions for people.”
On the doorsteps he has already heard much on issues around housing, “unreasonable” waiting lists in health, on road repairs and maintenance, and what he describes as “disgraceful failures” in child and adolescent services.
“The understaffing in speech and occupational therapy, the recent charges placed on special needs service users, the culture of substance abuse and the ugliness of littering are other very pertinent topics raised with me.”
Depite the feedback, he has also sensed a “serious disconnect and alienation” among people. “Their sense of belonging, their sense of value and worth and their belief in fairness have been seriously undermined by the everyday battles they are presently facing. The lack of empathy for people and their issues to ensure the system is ticking over is very apparent and is leading to much dissatisfaction and frustration.”
Sarah O'Reilly (Aontú)
Co-opted to the Council in 2016, Sarah O'Reilly took up a position as a political administrator in 2017. Prior to this she worked as a buyer for an international company in Cavan Town.
Having worked agriculture and Civil Works for 18-years, Cllr O'Reilly returned to education in 2010 when she qualified as an Accountant Technician two years later.
She is an active member on a number of organisations, including the Castle Lake Committee, Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB), the Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Bailieborough Community School, and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan.
“I have worked extremely hard over the last three years to improve promote and develop the community and I address the concerns of my constituents.”
From speaking to constituents, the issues on the doorsteps are a need for better roads, good communication infrastructure, improved transport links, properly resourced services, and affordable housing. “I will shout loud and make these demands for East Cavan people. East Cavan constituents have long been forgotten, I am fighting every day for their needs and I will continue to demand the services and infrastructure they deserve, Cavan people will do the rest.”
She also believes there is a need to reform CAP to protect farming families. “Our educated youth are leaving Cavan in droves to find opportunities in Dublin and abroad. Recent rates increases, high insurance costs, cuts to care services, closure of post offices, Garda stations and banks will contribute to the closure of rural Ireland.”
Shirley Hall (Fine Gael)
First time candidate Shirley Hall says she is “delighted” to be running for Fine Gael in the Bailieborough-Cootehill district.
Married to Kenneth, the mum-of-three Chrilden is “passionate” about the development of local communities across the county.
A board member of Bailieborough Development Association, she is also chair of St.Aidan’s Comprehensive Parents Association.
Coming from a dairy and free-range farming background, she has also got a “strong understanding” of the issues affecting people in rural Cavan.
I am and have been involved in Daffodil day, youth groups GFS, the Agricultural show, tidy towns and U16 girls football. Our three children are involved with Knockbride GAA club and county football. I am also Assistant treasurer of the local St. Vincent de Paul.”
The biggest issue for Ms Hall believes is the development of the community through sport and education. “I believe our children are our future and we need to fight to get them the school facilities they deserve. I would like to congratulate Lakeland’s, Manor Farm, Terra and EMCA with their expansion creating jobs locally.”
More renewable/ solar energy grants and excise she thinks should be fed back into the grid to reduce the county's carbon footprint. Issues she hopes to raise if elected is the need for better broadband, lower insurance for young drivers, as well as promoting electric cars, including those that have a speed limit set.
“I would like the people of Bailieborough-Cootehill should vote for me because they know me and they know I’ll work hard for our community.”
Val Smith (Fine Gael)
From Drumgora, Stradone, he was first elected to office in 2009.
Married to Siobhan, they have teenage sons, Peter and Conor, who attend St Patricks College in Cavan.
He successfully retained his seat in 2014, after the electoral boundaries changed, and he contested in the Baileborough/ Cootehill Area. “Now in 2019 I am contesting the election again in the same Baileborough/ Cootehill area and hopefully with your help I will once again be successful.”
One of the issues facing rural areas, Mr Smith believes, is the lack of facilities available to communities. "This is an area I have worked tirelessly with over the past 10 years. I have campaigned and sought funding for various organisations from Senior Citizens societies to school playgrounds, football pitches and local amenities.”
He secured €250,000 to increase standards in Stradone Village and he is responsible for the new sewage extension in the area. Added to this he has secured €52,000 to improve road safety in terms of traffic calming measures, and is currently working on the N3 Junction at Lavey Inn.
Separately, he played a vital role in securing the location of the new Digital Hub in the tower in the Kilmore Business Park in Cavan Town. The initiative, Mr Smith considers, is a “great opportunity” for new businesses in the region.
“I fundraised with local businesses to erect three bus shelters on the N3. Lavey Lake has been completely transformed due to funding I secured and is enjoyed by people from near and far.”