*PJ Kelly. Photograph: Martin Connolly
An elected representative since 1974, PJ Kelly has been ever present on Clare County Council but 2019 saw him receive his highest ever backing from an electorate.
With 2,147 first preference votes to his name, PJ eased home on the first count in the Kilrush Local Electoral Area. “I don’t get carried away by things. Naturally if I wasn’t elected I’d be disappointed but I did my homework, I looked at it in a realistic way, I followed a reasonable campaign, 90 odd percent of the campaign on my own, outside areas I got assistance from good canvassers who showed me around, the line between north and west would wobble here and wobble there. In places like Labasheeda and Coolmeen other people helped me, I didn’t go far west, I work in an area where I’ve a high concentration of votes and I was returned,” he explained to The Clare Echo.
Although he topped the poll in 1991, Sunday was unique in that it was the first in which he was returned on the opening count. As well as his seat, the Lissycasey representative retains the title as the county’s longest serving councillor. “I don’t know if I’m the most experienced, I’ve been around but I’ve a lot to learn yet. I’m a good listener, I try to think things out before I open my mouth”.
His own Fianna Fáil party has added new blood to the local authority with Mark Nestor (Ennis), Shane Talty (Ennistymon) and Cillian Murphy (Kilkee) winning seats. “It’s nice, it’s a good mix, maybe we’ll have more balanced views and more people will come in on the side of common sense. Common sense is becoming an endangered faculty”.
Though he concentrated on a particular part of the Kilrush LEA, it is reported that PJ burnt second car out of his Toyota jeep and €110 from his pocked each week on fuel such was the condition and length of certain roads on the canvass.
This campaign was one the retired teacher was reluctant to contest but having approached six different people to run in his place, all of who declined, Kelly opted “reluctantly” to go again. “I was reluctant but I’m delighted, I realised the obligation and the workload that’s before me and I pray God will give me the strength and life to meet it, I certainly will be continuing very much on the lines I’ve been on regarding rural development, helping people to help themselves, getting rid of many of the chains of bureaucracy and so on and so forth”.
During the last Council term, the father of three was most vocal on the issue of planning, he has no intention of quietening down when he returns to his position at the front of Áras Contae an Chláir.
“Planning controls the destiny and future of an awful lot of people, we’re doing some crazy things at the moment, trying to put houses into holes in the ground and saying ‘they’re interfering with the landscape’. On one occasion recently I had to say they we were not in North Korea but North Munster, we should have freedom of expression, freedom of thought and that’s the main thing in Ireland today how people express themselves down through the years and we’re leaning towards a bureaucratic dictatorship”.