Lahinch Seaworld and Leisure Centre General Manager, Joe Garrihy will represent Fine Gael in May’s local elections.
A native of Lisdoonvarna, Garrihy joins sitting councillor Bill Slattery on the party ticket in the Ennistymon electoral area. He first became a member of Fine Gael two months ago and was approached before Christmas to consider contesting the local elections. “While it wasn’t something in the foremost of my priorities or thoughts after a bit of careful consideration I feel a lot of the areas I’m working in with community groups and clubs and my long experience working with Clare County Council and Clare Local Development Company I felt it was a challenge being laid down to me to take up the offer and continue at a higher level what I’ve been doing all my life and see if I can get the support of the people to do at a higher level to do what I’ve done for many years”.
Like the Liam McCarthy, Joe returned to Co Clare in 1995, prior to that he had lived in Dublin and Chicago working as an electrician. Nine years previous to coming home, ‘Goalie’ was one of three individuals that played minor, U21 and senior football for Clare in the same year, on top of that he lined out between the posts for the county soccer team. “Sport has been a big part of my life and being involved in sport is about being involved in community, when I came back I would have got involved with St Breckans and community development around the area in a voluntary capacity”.
His efforts in the development of the North Clare Sports and Amenity Park in Lisdoonvarna which “has a childcare centre, sports fields, playground, regeneration of the community hall” saw him receive the Outstanding Achievement Award at the first ever Lisdoonvarna Parish People of the Year Awards. “It was an investment of about €4m, we secured a lot of grant aid and engaged County Council and state agencies on that, from there I became involved helping other clubs and community groups to do their developments to look at grant support, development and when the downturn hit I became a mentor with Clare Local Development Company on the leader programme, I worked in a private capacity helping businesses with business development getting grants, support aid where it could be got. Over the years I’ve done 50 projects around Clare in terms of getting grant aid, supporting clubs and working with people in fundraising,” Joe recalled.
“Everything in life is politics, everything I’ve ever done has involved networking and working with state agencies, County Councils, politicians, bureaucratic representatives from Clare and sometimes beyond. I would consider in the sphere of getting things done I’ve enormous experience, where I may be a little bit short is the experience of electioneering. I would have supported a number of the candidates in the race and Oireachtas members down the years, I wouldn’t be experienced in the political end of the election process so I’ve a lot to learn there,” the fifty one year old told The Clare Echo.
He describes his relationship with running mate, Cllr Bill Slattery as “good friends, we’ve worked together for years on different projects. He’s a very good representative as is Richard Nagle the other sitting councillor that I’ve worked with for years. I look forward to working with those guys as I have done for many years, this is another dimension but I get on really with them and the ladies in the race also”
Now in his sixth year as General Manager at Lahinch Seaworld, he was in situ for the January 2014 storms that forced its temporary closure. “Communities are at their best when they need to rally together and they come together and sometimes it unfortunately takes challenges like that to bring out the best in communities I’ve seen that throughout my life, it’s not what happens to you negatively it’s how you respond and you make the best. As a result from those storms an awful lot of good came from it locally in terms of people supporting each other, there is support around the world as well as Co Clare for Ireland and in particular rural Ireland, there are connections, support and goodwill everywhere for it. It’s not the bad thing that happens to you that should define you it’s how you react to it”.
Fighting for resources in North Clare is one of his main concerns on the campaign trail. “There’s a bridge to be built between policy and delivery, it takes too long to get things done, bureaucracy sometimes takes up way too large an area of the conversation when actually doing should be easier, we look at feasibility studies which are very important. I see rural communities, leaders and sports clubs struggling with the bureaucracy and with the resources to actually deliver, the bridge between the local authority, Clare Local Development Company, the leader programme and departments is where I see a role for county councillors and elected representatives is being that bridge and not talking about it, doing it”.
It will be a busy period for the Garrihy family, two of his sons will sit State Examinations in June while his youngest will be getting ready to adjust to life in secondary school. Through his work and role as an U16 coach with Burren Utd, Joe will be meeting a lot of people before canvassing, on how he can turn those interactions into votes, he commented, “I’ve a lot of goodwill and a lot of contacts built up through doing and helping people, through sport but by supporting clubs and key groups throughout the area. People know me, I’m from Clare, I returned to live here and I hope my track record of actually delivering things that are there to be seen that people will appreciate the doing is worth supporting. I don’t do an enormous amount of talking, I’m motivated my delivering things and getting things done. I think people will recognise that when it’s clear, I do self-promotion in an enormous amount but when it’s clear the things that I do and that I’m involved in people would like to see more of it getting done”.