*Photograph: Gary Collins
Long serving Fianna Fáil councillor, Michael Hillery is to retire from politics.
A nephew of sixth President of Ireland, Dr. Patrick Hillery, Michael announced at a selection convention for the Ennistymon area on Sunday that he will step down from politics in May and not seek re-election to Clare County Council. “I knew the convention was coming up today and I thought it was the ideal opportunity to announce it to the Fianna Fáil organisation who in the beginning asked me to stand in 1985 so I felt the opportune time to go was back at the convention where it all started and announce it there”.
It comes as a surprise for Fianna Fáil, both Michael and Cllr Richard Nagle were the only nominees to represent the party in Ennistymon. The Spanish Point native’s decision to withdraw his name from convention was not expected by Fianna Fáil. “No one knew that I was going to do what I did today except for the family, it was a shock to them so it will take a bit of time for them to choose the person to replace me”.
In his first interview since declaring his retirement, Michael told The Clare Echo his decision “was extremely difficult” and comes as a result of boundary changes which has weakened his support base. “I’ve been thinking about it with my family for quite a while. I had a look at the division of the boundaries, north and south of West Clare, the way it is divided this time has made it very awkward for me, I’m right in the corner when I look one side of my house I’m looking at the Atlantic Ocean and the other side I’m looking at houses in the Kilrush area so I’m really geographically very disadvantaged this time. Previously when West Clare and North Clare were divided in two, there was a lot more voters in the North Clare area that have been transferred down to south of Miltown over along by Cloonanaha and right into Inagh, there’s about 600 votes that have been transferred down that were in the North Clare area when it was on its own the previous time”.
First elected in 1985, the father of two admitted, “If they left the boundary changes the way they were in previous times, the Ennistymon and Kilrush area it would have been a much easier to stay on”. The Hillery name is synonymous with politics in Clare and beyond but Michael stated that his two daughters, Áine or Olivia “are not interested” in trying to win his seat.
A former agricultural officer for Teagasc in Ennistymon, Michael retired in 2009 but as he reflected on his thirty three years in politics, he thanked his wife Moira, two daughters and extended family for their support and understanding for his absence down through the years plus the backing he received from Fianna Fáil and the many personnel that canvassed for him. “I found it very fulfilling, I enjoyed my time trying to help people. My ancestors were all the time helping people and I continued on that tradition, with my family I operated an open door where everyone called whatever time they felt like it and we operated that over the last 33 years and continued on that tradition so I’m proud of that”.