Seamus Ryan has been selected as a Labour candidate in the Ennis Municipal District for May’s local elections.
A librarian in Ennis, Seamus was put forward as a candidate following Monday’s selection. Disability activist Dermot Hayes withdrew his nomination meaning there would be no contest which shocked his potential competitor, “I personally was surprised, I had been hoping for a contest and I had hoped the best person would win and would have the best chance of winning a seat for the Labour party in Clare”.
Thirty six year old Seamus is from Moy but was one of the last children born at the county hospital in Ennis. He joined the Labour Party in 2008 when the views of then party leader, Eamon Gilmore struck a chord with him. “The values that Eamon Gilmore was espousing in his speech was what I believed in and I said there was no reason why I shouldn’t be involved and I believe serious things were happening in Ireland at the time, to be able to make changes you have to be involved”.
He will begin canvassing on Monday and indicated that trying to help Ennis reach its full potential will be key to his conversations on the doors of the District. “Ennis as it stands right now has great potential but it hasn’t been driven forward. Employment prospects have to be better improved in Ennis, if you look at Co Clare as a whole and the CSO data you can see North Clare, East Clare and West Clare are all losing populations, Ennis is growing slowly but it has to be made a more attractive place for employment, retail and the amenities it has. I’m particularly concerned about these plans to start building on the post office field, we’ve had plans year after year and nothing has happened which I think is the right thing because it’s the only piece of flood plain we still have left in Ennis, it’s a wildlife habitat and if you want to put something on it it needs to be some sort of a park that people can utilise and make Ennis a more attractive place not just for residents but for people to come here.
“In terms of developing the economy of Ennis, link it through with Shannon because there is a one or the other mentality at times, Clare as a whole needs to be developed as a place where people want to stay and want to live. Ennis has become a dormer town for Galway and Limerick particularly with the opening of the motorway and I believe Ennis has more potential than that particularly when the County Council’s submission through the Ireland 2040 planning would suggest Ennis should be a town of 50,000 people by that stage, Ennis needs to have more employment to keep people in the area, we can’t just be letting people go off to Limerick and Galway every day because that will see young people leave and everyone spending their money in other parts of the country and not in Clare,” the branch chairman of the Fórsa Trade Union said.
Five years ago he contested the last local elections securing 229 first preference votes, over 100 less than his Labour colleague Dermot Hayes. It was Seamus’ first time running for public office and admitted the timing could not have been worse. “2014 was probably the worst time that anybody could run for the Labour Party as we had to make some very hard decisions during Government times and not any of them popular for some people and for some people they caused a bit more discomfort than for others. I think that very much affected the Labour Party’s vote at the time, it also coincidentally shaved the same numerical number off of Fine Gael at local level, there was 100 seats lost by the Labour party and 105 lost by Fine Gael.
“I believe that the work I’ve done over the last five years as a peace commissioner, a trade unionist, a director of elections most recently for the repeal campaign here in Co Clare, my work on the marriage equality referendum has given me a profile with people that know who I am as a person. When I ran five years ago I was an unknown quantity, I was just a Labour party person, I’ve really put my credentials and my personality out there since then”.
That election saw Labour lose its only representative on the Council as Pascal Fitzgerald failed to retain his seat in the Shannon Municipal District. On what the party has done in Clare since, Seamus said, “What can you see over the past five years particularly up to 2016 when we were in Government was 19 primary and secondary schools having funding allocated and indeed some have been built. Ennis National, Cloughleigh National School has just been completed last summer, the Flood Defence works in Clare, Doolin Pier the money appeared after 20 years of lobbying by politicians in other parties, funding was put in place for hospitals like Raheen, Ennistymon and Kilrush, those are some of the things the Labour Party has done over that period of time here in Co Clare which I believe people don’t give us the credit that they would give to other people at times, they are concrete things literally that have been done”.
Former TDs, Moosajee Bhamjee and Michael McNamara were among the twenty people at the selection. They have imparted advice to the UL Public Administration graduate in the past but Seamus revealed that he has every intention of using what he describes the best piece of political campaigning advice over the coming months. “The most important tip that I have ever been given by Labour politicians is to make sure you ask every single person that you meet for their vote. It sounds very simple but people will not consider you unless you ask and I believe that going out meeting people and people know for many years because of my work in the library, they know what type of a person I am, that final push by asking is very important to them”.
It is expected that the Labour Party will add candidates in North Clare and Shannon in the next month.