*FILE PHOTO: Tony Mulcahy flanked by Enda Kenny and Pat Breen. Photograph: Joe Buckley

A FORMER SENATOR is confident Shannon Town can elect three county councillors at the 2024 local elections.

Tony Mulcahy’s (FG) return to politics was first reported by The Clare Echo in October, he joins Cllr John Crowe (FG) on the party’s ticket in the Shannon Municipal District for the local elections.

Shannon Town has not had three representatives on the local authority since 2009 when Mulcahy was elected alongside Patricia McCarthy (IND) and Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND). The trio were also elected in 2004 while in 1999 Mulcahy and McCarthy were both successful alongside the late Sean Hillery (FF).

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Mulcahy expressed confidence that Shannon Town can account for three of the seven seats in the Shannon Municipal District. “We have enough votes in this area and we would have a good spread of a vote. Mike McKee who I was very friendly with, Mike’s votes were spread a lot of Newmarket-on-Fergus, Sixmilebridge and pockets into South Clare, Deputy Maurice Quinlivan picked up a lot of votes in South Clare so there is a Sinn Féin vote there and I’d imagine Donna McGettigan will do the same, if you look at the current poll she will.

“Gerry Flynn has a core vote which he has had in each election after the other. I’d imagine there is a core Fine Gael vote and there is certainly a Tony Mulcahy vote. 3,800 people vote here which is almost three quotas, it is important for a town of our size, the second biggest town in the county, we can’t have a majority of the councillors but three of them would be a bigger help. I worked with Sean Hillery and Patricia McCarthy when we had three out of five, then we had three out of six, you certainly benefit from that and when you get elected you work together”.

Cllr McGettigan has been ratified to form part of the Sinn Féin ticket in the Shannon MD alongside first-time candidate James Ryan (SF) while Cllr Flynn has yet to outline his intentions on whether he will run for what would be his fifth local election campaign.

On the performance of the current seven Shannon MD councillors, he commented, “There is always room for improvement. I know housing is a problem and I know we’ve had a couple of local authority estates built during that period of time but there is a massive need for affordable housing for young couples, I’d like to have seen more of those built but there could be restrictions from Central Government preventing that from happening. The basic stuff, grass cutting, roads need a bigger push in my view. I remember when I was elected first, the engineer came to our crossing in Tullyvarraga, it had no pedestrian crossing and now there’s four on the main road as you go from St Caimin’s to the Church, when they say all politics is local it comes down that. I’d like to see more developments, we’ve seen good enough announcements in the last few weeks like the all-weather pitch but I’m not too sure what is happening, there was a public meeting on it but it has been a disaster for ten years, it should be up and running, St Senan’s are looking for a sports grant to develop their facilities into a training ground down there, those are all areas I’d have experience in working in, obviously if you have links to Government these things happen and can happen”.

Shannon Town Centre is an area that needs attention, the Newcastle West native felt. “I’d like to see the area go on again and go from strength to strength, we have fantastic people in the District, it is a big area but the key thing is if you have plenty of employment it will bring the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker, it grows off of that. On the shopping centre, there are a lot of empty units, it is privately owned and I don’t know how it can be improved on, when I came into the Town Centre I go in via different sides depending on where I’m going, I go in through the four corners, I walked up by where Sherry Fitz is and I thought there was a lot of units closed and I was taken aback by it”.

Both Mulcahy and Cllr Crowe have both prevailed in the three elections that they have been each other’s running mate. “There’s seven seats there, I don’t mind if it is the first or the last. Greg Duff got the ninth seat on the Shannon Town Council election but yet he was Mayor of Shannon when we had the first meeting after the election, he said he didn’t feel comfortable being elected Mayor but I said there’s nine people here, you’re one of the nine and you are equal, it doesn’t matter how many votes you got because you are equal. The sharing agreement that we had on Clare County Council applied here, I was party to that with Patricia McCarthy and Tommy Brennan. I walked out on one meeting because people wanted me to run against Patrick Keane, he was being proposed as Mayor, at that time it was 32 councillors, I said what do we want me to run against him and it finish 22-10 and I look like a gobshite, I know Pat and I like Pat, his family were there and I wouldn’t do it, we had an agreement, Tommy copped it and hit the table straight away ‘I think we need a bit more time’ so we went downstairs and we had war, there was one person and I won’t name them. If there was a principle and an agreement in place we would all work together, that can only be for the better of the community, Brian Meaney from the Greens was there with Patricia McCarthy and Christy Curtin as Independents so it meant positions rotated and everyone got a fair go, to me that is good policy”.

Explaining his reasons for leaving politics after losing his seat on the Seanad in 2016, Tony said, “I lost my seat, I always knew when I ran first that the day would come when I wouldn’t get enough votes, I had two General Elections and a Seanad campaign when that happened. I had to go back to the business because I had no income, there is no secret in it, we finished in April, we got three months pay on top of this which took me to November so then I started to pay myself through the business which was in its infancy then,

“We were only doing a couple of hundred lunches a day whereas you need to be doing 10,000 a day to be making a living out of it, margins were so small so it was total focus to build it up. Between 2016 and 2019, there was no election so you’d be waiting a long time, I never drew money from the Dole, when I was nineteen I finished my training at the Airport, I signed on for three days but I never took it, I went knocking on doors in Limerick to get a job and coming off the bus I got offered a job in Nellys because I knew the chef Eugene McNamara, Tony McMahon was the head chef, I went in and said I’d work a week free and I ended up there for seven and a half years, then I opened my own restaurant Mister Pickwicks which was a great journey but probably the most difficult years of my life because I wasn’t an accountant or bookkeeper, I was a chef, I met fantastic people working for me and built up a great base in the town which led us into outdoor catering and ultimately we ended up on school lunches and opened in Smithstown to do that”.

At the time of his election to the Seanad in April 2011, his daughter was working for Sykes a company who had been based in Shannon for twenty years who had been one of the biggest clients for his catering company. He recounted, “In November 2011, I got a phonecall to say Sykes were leaving, we got €380,000 turnover and we now had €80,000 just like that, I rang a friend of mine, my current business partner is his father and I said ‘what will I do’, I wasn’t too sure how the 2016 election would go but with a massive majority the electorate was going to run for the full five years, he said he had a young fella who is doing the school lunches so were tipping away at them but I pulled away from it when I went into the Seanad. I got the Munster region plus Galway but another kitchen supplies Waterford so we were involved in that, I don’t know was it great foresight but I said I might need something after 2016, during that gap I had to totally focus on that”.

Initially nominated as a Fine Gael candidate for the 2016 General Election, Mulcahy withdrew at convention which opened the door for Cllr Mary Howard (FG) to run alongside sitting TDs, Pat Breen (FG) and Joe Carey (FG). “I pulled out of the 2016 General Election convention because I knew we hadn’t enough votes and if we lost a seat I would get the blame because Pat Breen and Joe Carey were running, miracously they got two seats, polled very close together and couldn’t be separated. I pulled out deliberately because politics is a game where you will get the blame especially your own like pointing fingers. In 2019, the business was growing and I had a few personal issues going on”.

Garret McPhillips as a result of those personal issues then ran for the 2019 local elections, the Shannon man seconded Mulcahy’s nomination this time round with Noel Mulderrig the proposer.

A “reasonably good” reception is expected by Tony when he knocks on the door and he defended the performance of Fine Gael in Government. “The last two Budgets in particular, I look at a Budget and say the people in need, the elderly, the disabled and the carers, I know everybody gets the electricity grant because it is impossible to do it any other way, those that needed the money in the last two Budgets have got it. The pension is now coming up from €70 a week plus the fuel allowance will be over €200 a week, if you’re England it would £175 a week, nobody can tell me the cost of living in the North or England is higher than here, it isn’t, they have always paid more for petrol than diesel.

“All politics is local, people need to make their decisions on who they want to represent them here, over the years I’ve got the response ‘I don’t like Fine Gael’, I’m not asking them to vote for Fine Gael, I’m asking them to vote for Tony Mulcahy because Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour or Sinn Féin won’t come in here to try run the town, it is the local councillor and I assume there will be negativity out there. Before COVID, there was 1.9 million people working here, there is now 2.96 million, if we want to protect that we need to be very careful on how we make decisions. I hear people say ‘we want change’, I’ll make it very simple, can you tell me what that is and what it looks like because I need to see it, it is easy to make flowery statements but the economy is booming, yes it is related to those big companies, ten of them pay 50 percent of the corporation tax but by the same token they pay a huge whack of wages which leads to PRSI and PAYE, a lot of VAT is paid off those wages, I’m not a man who wants to be taxing Intel, Google and all these as long as they are proving the jobs and paying the corporation tax. The corporation tax is better than the property tax situation that we had before the crash where it was all on properties, I think the country is in a good state, I don’t know if there is an anti-establishment attitude out there that we need change, change might come at a price. One fella said to me in the yard last week ‘shur give them a run at it and if they make a bags of it we can tidy it up’, I said it is a great idea and told him how long it would take to tidy it up, it took us ten years to tidy up the last one and fifteen years from the Jack Lynch landslide”.

Looking ahead to next year, he is optimistic that there will be a strong vote for Tony Mulcahy. “I haven’t ran for election for some time. I’ll be putting out phone calls to people and contacts to know what they think, I’ve got a very positive response so far. I don’t mind what seat it is, if it the last or the first one, I’m not battling to take someone’s seat, there are strong contenders out there who have managed to hold that seat each time, it is not easy shift those in possession but we will do the best we can and if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work, I’m willing to put myself before people. I can certainly say one thing, there isn’t a queue in any party of any description to run for office, there is a lot of negative stuff that comes with it but we will handle it, I’m a lot better at handling that than I was a long time ago, I’ve learned good lessons, you learn chastening lessons in General Elections because they are a different ball game, I can assure you my name won’t be on a ballot paper in a General Election again, it is madness, Co Clare is just too big, you’re going from Shannon to Ballyvaughan, across from Miltown Malbay to Kilrush, I don’t know how the lads do it”.

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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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