*Photograph: Eamon Ward
Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan has himself geared up for canvassing the length and breadth of East Clare over the coming months.
On Friday, he topped the poll at a Fianna Fáil convention which selected their three candidates for the Killaloe MD. Coming first was a pleasant surprise he said, “In my own mind I felt I was going to be safe enough but I didn’t think I would top the poll, I have a fairly strong Cumann there’s about 29 delegates in my own Cumann which have a vote so that’s a fairly big Cumann, it’s one of the biggest in the county. I knew I hadn’t to go too far more to get over the line to get through the convention so that’s a big base before you start”.
In 2014, he was the last candidate elected with then Mayor Joe Arkins the big fatality, his success was dubbed “a surprise to many” by local papers at the time. The forty two year old is aware the surprise factor is now gone. “There’s no two elections the same, areas change, things differ, you can’t take for nothing for granted at this game, it’s a bit like a hurling match you’re only as good as your last game and you have to perform all the time to keep yourself out there, every election has its own challenges so you take for granted. That cushion of a seat gone out of the area is a huge challenge”.
Key to retaining his seat is a strong canvass. “We canvassed the length and breadth of our area the last time, we worked very hard and I had a good campaign behind me, we were out seven nights a week, we were out a month before anyway started right up to the day we could canvass we stayed at it and I’m pleased that was a big help to them. I met people afterwards and some people said ‘you were the only one that called to our door so you got our vote’, People think that you’re safe now that you’re in but that’s not always the case, you have to be very careful of the mindset of people too they’d say he’s ok not he’s in and he’s established he’ll be fine the next time, you can’t take for granted, you’ve to take it on as if you’re starting from scratch.
“I got great advice when I got elected in 2014, the following morning I met a councillor from West Clare and he told me ‘well done, enjoy your five years in the Council but your canvas for the next election starts today’ which was good advice. It’s a bit like doing the Leaving you won’t get a good Leaving just by the final year,” O’Callaghan told The Clare Echo.
When May arrives, Alan is hopeful voters will acknowledge the work he has done since becoming a first time councillor. “I hope I have done some good for the area, people have seen what it’s like to have your own local councillor to cover your area regardless of your politics or what party you support, at local level that’s left aside because if they feel they have a councillor in their area they have more of a lever to get issues done or help with stuff like Tidy Towns or community volunteer groups, they probably feel the benefit is there and if you can help any area you’d hope to get the reward back by getting the votes”.
With Quin and Clooney both added to the Killaloe Municipal District, the Kilmurry publican will be the closest sitting councillor alongside Cllr Joe Cooney that may benefit from the addition. However, Fine Gael’s Ger O’Halloran will also be a new presence in the electoral area and he will be determined to scoop the Clooney/Quin vote as well as taking a share of O’Callaghans. “You’re elected to represent everyone in all areas, you’ve to take every area as if it’s your own really because you’re elected to cover the whole Municipal District. It’s a new area coming in so there’s a challenge with that too but you just have to go out, get on and do it”.
He added, “At the end of the day it’s dog eat dog while you’re on the canvass, you’re a man on your own and take it on and get through it. Ger O’Halloran and the rest of the candidates have to do their thing, I’ve to do my thing and that’s the way it is, you have to keep your head down, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing only worry about what you’re doing yourself and give your best shot regardless of the result”.