*Cllr Joe Cooney. Photograph: Eamon Ward
For the last two elections, Joe Cooney secured more first preference votes than any other candidate in the county but he’s insisting “there are no guarantees in life” as the countdown to May 24th continues.
Hard work and a commitment to serving the people of East Clare is what the O’Callaghans Mills councillor credits for his poll topping results of 2,780 (2009) and 2,843 (2014). With such a strong voting base, Fine Gael could do worse than approach him for the upcoming General Election but Joe confirmed to The Clare Echo that becoming a TD is a job he has no aspirations of working towards.
On top of his full-time Council role, Cooney is a building contractor and Chairperson of Clare GAA. “Being in different positions you have to balance and keep on top of things. I’m involved in a construction company, again by working with other people and making sure I deal with issues straight away don’t leave them on the long finger and by being straight and up front with people helps in a big way. It’s not an easy task but when you’re committed to something you’re either committed or you’re not committed I’m committed to the different roles I’m involved in as long I’ve the appetite and am able to continue doing it and my term as the Chairperson of the GAA will be over after another twelve months because that’s only a five year term, we don’t know what’s going to happen on the 24th of May with the local elections so after that I’ll look at that when the new Council is put in place if I’m still there”.
As he travels the Killaloe Municipal District in pursuit of retaining the two thousand plus votes, Joe outlined what areas he would be keen to see progress in if returned to the local authority. “A sewerage facility for Broadford is a vital piece of infrastructure for Broadford and the catchment area down there, I’d be campaigning for that and also the need to continue to improve road infrastructure in the Killaloe Municipal District including local, minor and regional roads with special attention to the ongoing road maintenance and ongoing investment in the new River Shannon crossing at Killaloe would be one of my priorities as well. Ensuring our tourism facilities are enhanced including the development of the visitors attraction at Holy Island. Brexit is a big issue and I would be hoping that there would be some conclusion at some stage but sustaining farming communities, businesses and rural communities in the context of Brexit is another priority of mine and promoting more sporting and recreational facilities throughout the Killaloe Municipal District for the young people”.
For the past five years, the father of three has been Chairperson of the Council’s Physical Development Strategic Policy Committee. “We’ve good progress made. Our road infrastructure has improved throughout the Killaloe Municipal District, we would love to see more done on the local and minor roads, the reinstatement of the CIS and the LIS schemes have helped them roads in a major way which was very beneficial and welcome. The Killaloe bridge crossing is going to be vital for the East Clare area, we have made great progress on that and the illegal dumping going on around this county is a disgrace, it’s ruining our lovely countryside and I think we’ve made a lot of progress on that”.
The current state of towns and villages across the county has frightened the former Scariff Community College student. “Small villages and towns in some parts of it are just dead at the moment to be honest with you. Overall a lot has been achieved, a lot of our national schools have got extensions and upgrades, we have a new secondary school in Tulla which has been a major asset and benefit to East Clare, a new national school in Sixmilebridge. My big concern is vacant and derelict buildings in small villages and towns, they seem to be dying completely, shops can’t survive there unfortunately, lack of infrastructure is a big setback”.
As it stands, Fianna Fáil have three sitting councillors in the Killaloe MD but Fine Gael are aiming to upset this and hope to retain their two seats while adding Ger O’Halloran to the mix, Cooney however maintained that predicting the winners and losers was no easy task. “There are nine candidates running for five seats, it’s going to be very competitive so it’s very hard to call. Everyone is there to try and win a seat to represent the people of the Killaloe Municipal District, I’ll also be going out there to try and hold on to the seat I have but there are no guarantees in life but everyone is out there to play their part and do their best and it’s something that cannot be predicted”.