*Photograph: Ruth Griffin

MAYOR OF Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) is predicted to top the poll in East Clare for the fourth election in a row but he has defended the strategy in place that has seen Fine Gael return only two candidates.

Christened as “the dyson of East Clare” by communications consultant, Mark Dunphy on The Electoral Chair, Cllr Cooney’s vote-getting ability has resulted in him heading the poll for the last three elections in East Clare with first preference votes of 2,780 (2009), 2,843 (2014) and 2,697 (2019).

Dunphy added, “He is a hoover of votes, he always has been and always will be. I don’t want to put a curse on Joe’s campaign”.

Founder of Clare FM, Caimin Jones noted, “Joe Cooney in East Clare polls nearly 3,000 first preference votes in the Killaloe Municipal District, he is not a particularly good media performer, he doesn’t make great speeches about lots of things but he has an extraordinary quality that stands him in great stead, likeability, people like Joe, I’ve seen this when he comes into a room people say ‘how are you Joe, you’re very welcome’.

“He is very popular, he has a personality that people like in his area and also stories get told about him, he is a builder by trade, he goes into this Council estate and this person complains that there is something wrong with the roof and asks if he will get onto the Council officials because they are worn to the teeth of trying to get through to them so Joe goes out to the van, pulls out the ladder, climbs up the roof and fixes the roof, vote guaranteed for family and friends for the foreseeable future. He is a hard worker, very likable and doesn’t fit in easily to the media pattern that we might judge as effective in terms of being successful electorally and he is hugely successful,” the Scariff native added.

Ger O’Halloran (FG) who is the parliamentary assistant to Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) contested elections for the party in 2014 and 2019. At the selection convention for Killaloe MD candidates last September he criticised the absence of any clear strategy within Fine Gael to maximise the seats returned from Cllr Cooney’s vote. He said, “Given the current constituency chairperson’s statement that Fine Gael is expecting to retain but grow numbers, the absence of any strategy is bemusing”. He quoted Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

Speaking on The Electoral Chair’s election debate in the Killaloe MD, the comments from O’Halloran on the lack of a Fine Gael strategy in East Clare were put to Cllr Cooney. “I wouldn’t say there is no political strategy there, we go out and meet the people, talk to the people and see what the issues are that the people have, we will try and deliver for the people, that is the way I’ve been working since I got involved in local politics and it is the way I will continue working, if people ask you to do this or that you try to do your best for the people which is important and vital. On occasions, people will run in different areas like Ger O’Halloran who went in Clooney, I didn’t canvass the Clooney or Quin areas or the places nearby, the same by Cllr Burke down in Whitegate and Mountshannon, they don’t come into the Mills or Kilkishen area but other than that it is open country and that is the way it is since I started running, I haven’t heard that it is going to be different in 2024. My belief is that it is most important to represent the people that elect you, that is what I’ve been doing and I will continue to do”.

A former Chairman of Clare GAA, Joe did not feel he was hoovering up too many votes. “I’m hoovering up no votes at all, I’m going out meeting the people, talking to the people and I’ll leave it in the people’s hands as to what they decide to do, actually I don’t think I’ve asked a person to vote number one for me, I just go meet them, talk to them, they know what I do, I don’t know what they do because that is up to them but the most important thing is to work as a team, represent the people to the best of your ability, it won’t be always easy but you try deliver as much as you can for the people, we all know you can’t deliver everything for the people but you can only go out and do your best and the day your best isn’t good enough it is time to move on and let in a new person to take over. I will be meeting the people on this occasion, the same as in the past and doing my best to deliver what I can for the people of the Killaloe Municipal District”.

Back in 2019, 72 of Cooney’s transfers went to O’Halloran and 244 to Cllr Pat Burke (FG) while Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) got 262, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) obtained 164 and Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) received 104.

Cllr Burke was unable to explain why despite nearly securing half of the vote in the Killaloe MD that Fine Gael only elected two councillors compared to Fianna Fáil’s three. “The strategy was that the candidates were well placed geographically, Cllr Cooney resides in the centre of the Killaloe MD more or less so he has a huge area around where he lives, our strategy was three candidates spread out but for some reason in a heavily populated area in Quin where Ger O’Halloran was residing he didn’t make it, I didn’t go over to Quin canvassing and Cllr Cooney didn’t either so what more could we do”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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