*Liam Grant (GP) far right. Photograph: Joe Buckley

ALTHOUGH he was a sitting councillor, Liam Grant (GP) was contesting an election for the first time. 

Co-opted to Clare County Council in October 2021 following the resignation of Susan Crawford (GP) who took the seat following Senator Roisin Garvey’s (GP) nomination to the Seanad, Liam was one of three outgoing councillors to lose their seat alongside PJ Ryan (IND) and Cillian Murphy (FF).

His return of 1,150 first preference votes was actually higher than that of six successful candidates across the county in different electoral areas and was a strong vote considering it was his first election. In 2019, the Greens polled 1,302 in the Ennistymon LEA through Garvey. Indeed for the election count, he swapped his wetsuit for a more traditional suit, the more formal look of the surfer catching his colleagues by surprise.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Lahinch man admitted that he found the campaign and life as a politician to be very difficult. “It is hard not to be disappointed, the last few months have been gruelling going door to door asking people, friends, family and everyone involved for long days and to just fall short even though I got a good vote, I finished above the Ennis quota but there was just a big turnout and the four ahead of me ran good campaigns, they are good politicians and I wish them the best of luck. I want to thank my Mam in particular but all my family and friends who got behind me, I got a lot of young people, the surfers and maybe the alternative crowd out to vote, it didn’t happen for me this time but I am proud in a way but it is tough not to feel sad”.

He explained, “I found it so mentally tough, it broke me so many times, it’s been the toughest job for me and I’m in it because I’m passionate about water quality and housing, that is the only reason I did it. Even if I got elected, I’d have been terrified to try follow through on all the hope people had in me. At the doors, so many people were saying the health care isn’t good enough or the housing, they are breaking down crying and they are looking for me to try help them, it is hard and I found the expectations really difficult. I was in for the right reasons, issues I was passionate about but to be honest there isn’t a lot of other good reasons to be in it, it isn’t for money or for the popularity”.

Even though Liam polled second of the three Lahinch candidates behind Cllr Bill Slattery (FG) but above Cllr Shane Talty (FF) from the local boxes, the strength of the top candidates in the field did not aid his cause. “I had the least amount of time served between the five, Bill was there for eight years, the other lads had five, I did two and a half, it may seem like I was a sitting councillor but I was a double co-optee and it was tough, I battled between me, Shane and Bill in the one area, I knew when I saw the Lahinch box open that Bill got a good showing there, Miltown and Lisdoonvarna, I got a good showing in Doolin, I’m happy with the two and a half years I did in the Council, highlighting water quality, getting the lifeguard season extended and highlighting issues for younger people like housing, I’m happy to see two people in their twenties elected, the more people we have involved whether it is voting or elected themselves is important because I know a lot of young people are disenchanted with politics”.

Grant’s defeat means the Greens are once again left without a voice on Clare County Council. “It was a reflection of the feeling nationally rather than locally, it was a hard flag to fly at times, the Green flag but I think most people in North Clare are quite eco-minded, you have the Burren Ecotourism Network and so many sustainability products, maybe the personnel at the top of the Green Party are not connecting with rural Ireland enough, there is a lot of positive things like the solar panel rollout and a few things that people are happy with but there is a disconnect which hurt me at times, I got a few Green votes because of people that know me, people that didn’t know me might have struggled to vote for the Greens,” he outlined.

Liam was not afraid when appearing on The Clare Echo’s election debate that he was against the tide prior to polling day, he felt this was due to senior leaders of the Greens failing to connect with rural Ireland. “I started canvassing on January 13th which was my birthday, a lot of people were saying ‘we like what you’re doing Liam but we can’t vote for the Green Party’ but I turned a lot of those people and showed them what I was about. I think me, Roisin, Grace O’Sullivan and Malcolm Noonan, more rural members of the Party have done a better job of connecting with rural Ireland and pushing us to the forefront more would help the party because I think the people are there and the desire to have clean water, to support nature and wildlife is there but connecting with the public there has been a failure there but the lads I hope will still fly the Green flag in my absence”.

Putting the A back in the Lahinch signs was among the items the youngest member of the last outgoing Council fought for. “I’d have loved five years to do more things but I think there’s some things set in motion which will hopefully come to fruition whether it is the lads carrying it on, two and a half years is not enough to make changes. I had some small wins but I would have loved more time to really make my mark but it was a tough election”.

An earth and ocean science graduate, Liam said it would be difficult to win back a seat from the four elected councillors in five years time. “My initial thought is no and I always try to be honest in interviews, I think if the four run again they will be good enough to hold their seats and it will be harder for me to come back whatever way I go about it but five years is a long time in politics, a lot of things could change”.

Having worked as a councillor full-time for the final months of his term, he must also look for new employment. “It’s been hard. I’m looking out now wondering what my next job is going to be, I was in the fire service for a while but for the majority of it I had another job, I was doing some events and I might go back to that, maybe the fire service seeing as the conditions have improved significantly which I played a part in, the lifeguard season has been extended too but I don’t know because the campaign has consumed me. I’ll have a week or two to rest but I’ll be going onto the job market again so we’ll see but I’ll be fine”.

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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.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

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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