*Cillian Murphy. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
Fifteen years on from last seeking a seat on Clare County Council, Cillian Murphy feels “it’s time” to try bring pro community and West Clare ideas to the local authority.
In 2004, Cillian was the first candidate eliminated in the Kilrush local electoral area running as a Green Party candidate. Now he’s back in the same area with a bigger profile and a different party having switched allegiance to Fianna Fáil. On his reasons for putting his name back on the ballot, Murphy explained, “It was time to go, sometimes you can have a lot of idealistic things in your head as to why you should and then it takes a bit of time to maybe put it together as to how you would be better at it than previously. A few years ago it was just to go whereas now I’m going because I can actually do stuff, I’ve a lot of stuff done in the last fifteen years that are very pro community and pro West Clare. It’s about trying to bring that experience into the Council so that the people of West Clare have a really good, innovative, forward thinking, committed representative inside in the Council”.
Going from being the first eliminated to securing a seat will be no easy task but the work carried out by the former fishing skipper in the intervening fifteen years will go some way to seeing him climb the poll. Some of this work includes being the co-founder of Loop Head Tourism and his involvement on the Make Kilkee Plastic Free initiative that gave the town national attention.
For this work to be recognised by the electorate, he was adamant that it must be hammered home on the canvass. “There’s no substitute for knocking on doors and that’s the primary mechanism, you just have to tell them, it is no good relying on the media and hoping people will know these things, you have to go out and tell people. I’m selected late so that puts me a little on the hind foot but sometimes a short sharp campaign can be as beneficial as a long drawn out one. When I was interviewed as a candidate having laid out all the stuff that I’ve done in the last fifteen years, one of their comments to me was ‘it’s like you’ve been in training for this your whole life’ and in a way I have, lessons learned, connections made and projects up and running then completed, an involvement in things for the community benefit, that’s the training period I’ve had and here I am to knock on doors and really drive that message of all the work I’ve done in the last ten years and hope it pays off on the day”.
Cillian pinpoints depopulation as “the most existential threat to rural communities” and sees their fishing, tourism and farming assets as ways to combat it. “I’m a huge fan of ash based development, by that I mean we don’t look at what we need, let’s look at what we have, we are probably one of the best places to live along the west of Ireland, no question. We have unbelievable places to live, great amenities and great potential but what we have to do is look at those things, fishing, farming, our tourism industry and make sure we add the value.
“We have to look at how we take those items, come up with a creative idea as to how we add value to them and make sure that value is held by us. I was reading something recently about our fishing industry and it said eighty percent of our fish landed in Ireland is exported as a commodity so it’s sold at wholesale prices, what we have to do is take those things, our piers, our facilities and see how can we take those things, tweak them and make sure the production is added locally. We have to do the processing, it’s not appropriate that European or Irish boats are landing at the top of the pier in Killybegs and being loaded straight onto a lorry before being shipped out to Spain or France”.
Murphy believed Clare is poorly served in he fishery industry. “One of the most sustainable fisheries in the world is off the west coast of Ireland, purely by virtue of the weather and geography yet we have very little actual fitting in small boats, Clare especially is very poorly served, we have to start looking at how we make those things happen, we have the piers and infrastructure to cope with it, we have people that can do the work but we have to say what needs to happen and if that starts filtering into local authority chambers and the County Councils are looking at a pile of projects and they bring ten fishing boats back as a target over the next five years that would be great. I grew up as a fisherman, there was 25 boats in West Clare all with three or four people working on them, if somebody turned around tomorrow and offered us an industry with 75 or 100 people working in it you’d bite the hand off them but we have it there and the potential to do that”.
He noted, “The idea of driving around West Clare sprinkling ideas out the window and hoping they’ll create jobs is ridiculous, there is hard work attached to everything and that is one thing that stands to my record, I work hard, if I’m involved in a project we will sit through it from start to finish”.
Prior to getting the nod from Fianna Fáil, the father of three expressed an interest in representing Fine Gael but was turned down. “I guess they didn’t see the attributes that I had at the time, obviously they were looking for somebody different and that is fine, Fianna Fáil looked at said that is fine ‘what you’ve got and bring to the table suits us’. I’m reasonably a-political, I’m not party political, for me it’s about what we can do in politics to benefit the local communities that I would be hoping to represent”. As a result, he’ll be hoping history repeats itself as Kilrush councillor Ian Lynch was elected as an Independent candidate having failed to get a nomination from Fine Gael in 2014.
“In local politics it is not about party politics, to a point why the team support comes into it because that’s what gets people involved and interested, to make sure the benefit is there for the whole community you have to put the right person in the job. This election is going to be really interesting because there is a huge change out there, a lot of people have retired and not going forward anymore, potentially you could have fifty or sixty percent change in the make-up of the Council Chamber, that’s exciting because for stuff to happen and continue happening we need change, we need to bring fresh thinking in and that’s not to degrade anyone that has gone before. I would really hope that if I get elected, somebody would be challenging me hard in five years and in ten years time I’d be out the gate work done and somebody else is coming in with more energy, fresh ideas and has fired me out, I’d be delighted if that’s the way it works,” the tourism consultant observed.