*Cllr Pat O’Gorman and David Griffin.
FIANNA FÁIL have selected Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) and David Griffin (FF) as their candidates in the Shannon Municipal District for next June’s local elections.
Hours prior to Monday’s convention, The Clare Echo reported that Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) was to announce his retirement which he duly did and this left just three candidates in the mix, Cllr O’Gorman, Griffin and Rachel Hartigan (FF).
No Oireachtas member was available to chair the selection convention leaving the task to Cork’s Maria Buckley who sits on the Fianna Fáil Ard Chomhairle. She was flanked at the top table by Cathal Crowe TD (FF), Senator Timmy Dooley (FF), Chairperson of the Sean Lemass Cumann, Tony Walsh (FF), Claire Chambers (FF) who was appointed convention secretary and Ennistymon based Gerry Reidy (FF). Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) and Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) were among the elected representatives present at Treacy’s Oakwood Hotel.
92 votes were cast, all of which were valid. Cllr O’Gorman topped the poll with 45 followed by Griffin on 31 and Haritgan on 16. The quota was 31 meaning both male candidates were selected on the first count.
As proceedings started, there were Christmas carols in the background, the festive spirit continued with warm tributes to the outgoing Cllr McMahon.
Newmarket-on-Fergus native McMahon was offered the opportunity to speak first. He said of the nominees, “I know two of the people very well and one I hadn’t met before but youth is great to see and it is something I’m very happy to see, it is one of the things thrown at our party that we haven’t enough youth but this could be the start of our change and look to young people for local leadership, it is a good indicator of the party in this area”.
McMahon paid tribute to the people of Newmarket-on-Fergus for ensuring he was elected undefeated in all contests. “I have been serving for the last forty eight years and for the past nearly eighty years there has been a McMahon councillor in Newmarket-on-Fergus with my father before me, it is unique”. The backing of his late wife, Kitty was acknowledged, “she always backed me and I was very lucky that she was a strong Fianna Fáil backer”.
“Goodwill” of supporters in his native village was referenced by the county’s second longest serving politician. “I said the last time I couldn’t keep going but I was swarmed by the goodwill. There has been fierce pressure put on me in the last few days by my family and friends to put my health first,” he added. “We’ve a huge challenge with Sinn Féin waiting to get in, I don’t like their politics or what they stand for”.
In his address he noted, “it is rare you get a chance to give your political obituary”. He highlighted the importance of humour in life, “laughing at ourselves can lengthen our stay on this earth and laughing at others can shorten it”. He concluded, “All I did was my best” and as he made his way to the back of the room he received a standing ovation.
Ardnarcrusha native Rachel Hartigan said it was an honour to have been on the ticket. The twenty one year old who is a past pupil of Deputy Crowe’s at Parteen NS spoke of her love for her community. “I have had a love of politics from a young age, when my friends watching Love Island, I was watching the US Presidential Elections. I always wanted to work in an area I was passionate about and help people do my bit”.
Now in her final year as a politics student in UL, Rachel added, “I’ve definitely found my calling and I don’t think my journey will end here”.
Stonehall native Griffin who has been a member of Fianna Fáil for the past ten years spoke of his honour at getting selected. “It is a proud day for me but also a sad day for Fianna Fáil with Pat announcing his retirement, I thank him for the guidance and friendship he has given me over the last ten years, it is an honour to try carry that legacy on. It is my first time putting my name forward for election, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t daunting coming up against well-established household names, I don’t come from a political family but I have done quite a lot of work to build my presence and name recognition. The task is to go out and build the base to get us elected in nine months time”.
Currently working as a parliamentary assistant to Kildare Senator Fiona O’Loughlin (FF) he flagged that mid-term elections are “always challenging for those in Government and we will have people who want to give us a bloody nose but we have a lot to be proud of, we’ve delivered in Government and in local Government, we have always delivered here for Shannon, Newmarket-on-Fergus and the surrounding areas”.
Twenty seven year old David commented, “I want to continue the fight in delivering for public infrastructure in the area and no one has done more than Pat McMahon in this regard”.
Former Mayor of Clare, O’Gorman admitted he was “delighted” to top the poll. “When you put your name forward you don’t know what will be the outcome and you can only take people at face value”.
He recalled that his co-option to the Council three years ago following Crowe’s election to the Dáil, also took place in the Oakwood, “I said I’d work tirelessly for four years, I said I’d work from Latoon Bridge to Westbury and there is no week that I don’t be in Westbury or Shannon Banks or on a house call in Newmarket-on-Fergus”.
Cratloe based O’Gorman fired a dig in the direction of his colleague, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND), “there is one Shannon candidate who doesn’t like me putting down Shannon motions but I put them down in spite of him”. He continued, “I will not leave down any part of the Municipal District, I don’t represent one town, one village or one parish like other people”.
Shannon Airport’s importance was stressed by Pat and the progress made on flood defences in the town of Shannon. Improvements to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park under Clare County Council’s watch were heralded by O’Gorman, “every councillor in the Shannon MD was in favour of the Council taking it over because it was run into the ground by Shannon Heritage, they didn’t want the heritage portfolio but the Council took it over and it has been turned inside out, there is a lot more activity there, there is animals and peacocks which had been lost over the years”.
Senator Dooley said in the decade he has known Griffin, he has noticed “a tremendous desire, interest and appetite for politics, he has the capacity and capabilities to be an excellent public representative for Fianna Fáil”. He said he has known O’Gorman “for very many years” through family links in farming but admitted the convention was the first time he met Rachel.
Dooley advised the selected candidates, “don’t let this local election be a referendum on national issues, let it be about local issues and knocking on the doors about those local issues, Pat McMahon won every time because he kept it local”.
An attendance of 96 members was very strong observed Deputy Crowe. He praised the addition of his successor on the Council, O’Gorman who has “carried the baton” on important issues and predicted he will be returned to the local authority. “Your presence on the ground is incredible and your social media is wonderful, I will know there is a flood in Rossmanagher because Pat will have been there that morning to have done a video about it”.
Meelick native Crowe said he shared a great-grandfather with the successful Griffin, “hopefully you will be Cllr David Griffin because it has a lovely ring to it”. Party members should be proud of Fianna Fáil’s record in Government, he maintained.