*Cllr Rita McInerney (FF) is hoisted in the air. Photograph: Joe Buckley

A REMARKABLE first preference vote from Cllr Rita McInerney (FF) saw her secure a strong mandate from the people of West Clare to represent them over the next five years.

Co-opted to Clare County Council in January following the retirement of Bill Chambers (FF) in November, the Cooraclare man had been on the local authority since 1985, Rita hit the ground running and garnered top marks for her attendance at meetings including that of the Rural Development SPC and the Regional Health Forum.

There was plenty of competition but Rita topped the poll in the Kilrush LEA with 1,340 first preference votes narrowly ahead of Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) with 1,318 and Cllr Dinny Gould (IND) on 1,310.

Key to her success was a very strong canvass with the party machine really rowing in behind Rita. “I’m really delighted, I want to thank my campaign manager Pat Considine, Carmel Martin, all the team and people in different places, my family have been amazing and the people of Doonbeg who really came out and supported me,” she said.

Rita told The Clare Echo, “Coming into it the pundits who have great experience and witnessed many counts were putting me as fighting for the last seat which I didn’t mind being there because I’ve only been co-opted for six months even though I’ve been involved in politics for a while but I don’t mind a dogfight as long as I was in contention I was happy enough coming up to the election.

“To get that tally last night was amazing but to get it readjusted in the morning was interesting but I’m delighted with the mandate I’ve been given and there’s a real onus on me to do the work but the work starts now. It’s been a fun ten weeks, an interesting ten weeks but it has been an amazing experience, meeting them on the doors and hearing the issues and trying to help people out in any way we can, it really gives you energy when you go out and meet the people to get the energy to keep going and help them with what they’re dealing with, it’s been an amazing campaign, I’ve really enjoyed it”.

Her native Doonbeg came out in force to back her as she cleaned up with over 400 votes here, good going considering the Long Village has been described as split at the best of times. “From a political perspective you could see it as divided, there was a strong Fine Gael versus a strong Fianna Fáil vote but as a community we were very united, we always have been both from a community and business point of view. I was helped in doing a bit of research through Doonbeg Community Development, it turns out we have over 45 community organisations in Doonbeg which shows the amount of activity that is there, there is a lot of other communities around West Clare, Clare and the West of Ireland, we have strong local communities and engaging with those, we all have our disputes and disagreements but we go out united as a team and that is very important, I really want to pay tribute to them on their support”.

After winning the selection convention in December to take Chambers’ seat it was put to the Doonbeg woman by The Clare Echo if she would use it as an audition to show the electorate what she can do prior to the local election and that she duly did. “I’ve loads of energy and drive, I was given a mandate from Bill and I want to pay tribute to Bill Chambers for giving me the opportunity to go in for six months, I had to grab it with both hands but I’d like to thank my family for their support, it is not easy when you’re self employed when you’ve staff and I’d like to hugely thank my staff because they have been amazing over the last ten weeks to keep the show on the road,

“I enjoyed every minute of it and certainly the Council staff and Executive made it very easy for me because they were very open, welcoming and transparent, I met with all the Directors of Service and the Council staff to get a sense of where they were at, I had some experience from my time on the Chamber of Commerce on the work of the Council which was a help as well and also to my fellow councillors within Fianna Fáil and outside it because I again knew a lot of them from my time in Chamber and Clare Local Development Company where I’ve been on the board, it made it easier. The more you do and you’re involved with the community, the easier it gets, you have the connections and relationships built up”.

In Clare Fianna Fáil now has an all-time high amount of Fianna Fáil councillors with Rita joined by Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Cllr Antoinette Baker Bashua (FF) and Cllr Rachel Hartigan (FF). “I’m delighted we have four female councillors for Fianna Fáil in the county, it is a big step up from one with Clare since 2014, me for the last five months and now two more with Rachel and Antoinette, it is brilliant”.

According to the former CEO of Ennis Chamber, the loss of Cillian Murphy’s seat is “a big blow” to the party. She said, “That is the big loss for today for Fianna Fáil is Cillian Murphy, he’s been an amazing councillor over the last five years, a real asset, I’ve worked with him very well over the last five months and very much of the one mindset with community development, engagement and particularly for the Kilrush LEA, we worked very well with himself, Ian, Gabriel and PJ over the last few months, it is difficult to see him go because he was a great councillor, he will definitely be missed from a Fianna Fáil perspective, a Kilrush LEA perspective and a Kilkee perspective certainly”.

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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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